Joseph Hallenbeck

Anno Domini 2011

December 16, 2011

Sketch Journal #7 - Krampus

I discovered the Daily Sketch Reddit this week and have added thirty minutes of sketching off their prompts to my daily routine. One of the nicer sketches this week was that of Krampus the mythical christmas demon of central Europe.
I started to dig through the noitaminA block of Anime from the last few quarters to see if anything got a good review on ANN. I find that anything from noitaminA and gets a large volume of tens has a tendency to live up to my expectations. What I stumbled upon was Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai or We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day. I am perplexed by the length of this title. I find Japanese titles often end up being oddly long before domestic translators get...
I started working through my library of photographs lately in order to sort out (through hundreds) the chaff from the wheat and begin trying my hands at post-production. I typically stick with a rather traditional methodology. I make adjustments to the raw file, but stick away from more elaborate composition effects. Settings: Model: Nikon D80 Shutter: 1/10 sec Exposure Program: Automatic F-Stop: f/5.7 ISO: 100 Focal Length: 170mm Lighting: None
After several months of video game reviews, let’s take a look at something entirely different, a text that is a rather appropriate capstone to the events of 2011: Albert Camus’s The Rebel. In The Rebel, Camus examines the history of the revolutions in Europe – starting with the French Revolution in the late 18th century which deposes the Divine Right of Kings, forever altering the role of religion in the state and ultimately the faith of the cultural revolutions of the dandy’s rebellion against Victorian society, the Marxist/Russian revolutions of the 19th century and the culmination of these revolutions with the...
Last week’s reflections on Okamiden upon the game’s qualities resurfaced an old musing regarding games. I am very particular about the games that engross me through thirty or sixty hours. Most games, by some aspect of their design, fail to illicit such a strong emotional response. What are the qualities of these games? What aspect of the design of say Super Mario 64 illicits such a strong response whereas Rachet & Clank brings out little to no response. The feeling of playing Okamiden is different from playing Call of Duty. I am an avid World at War player and can...
November 23, 2011

Top Picks for X-Mas 2011

Filed under: Literary Criticism
I suppose it’s not really news that the 2011 Christmas season for game releases is somewhat excellent this year around. Studios always seem to hold out on their big-budget titles until around this time of the year, so let’s examine my top five picks for this year: 4. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim I played Elder Scrolls Oblivion back when it first came out. The graphics Skyrim’s predecessor blew me away and I spend countless hours wandering about the countryside in search of herbs. Unfortunately, collecting herbs and perfecting non-combat skills in Oblivion just got you killed as your opponents would...
A quick post to point out that there is a new article,  examining my early impressions of Okamiden, over at The Wind-Up Culture Blog. I actually have new material lined up for the next few weeks on the blog, and I plan on making it a point to update the site at least once a week with new material throughout the winter. Drifting in the Sea is still on hiatus. I am not sure if I want to continue the current plotline, or devote what little time I have into working my comic adaptation of the Saga of the Volsungs, and complete the series...
November 16, 2011

Okamiden - First Impressions

Filed under: Literary Criticism
I am six hours into Okamiden right now or roughly a quarter of the way through the game. Considering Okami is one of my favorite games for the PS2, Okamiden as a sequel has some very big shoes to fill. My initial impression of the game was just how similar Okamiden is to it’s big brother. It replicates many of the game environments from its predecessor, the brush-manipulating game-play techniques, and graphical styles. Yet, it does this in a very paired down system and it can be difficult to judge Okamiden harshly because it’s landscapes are more restrictive, combat less...
Continuing my summer photography, I present a series of photographs taken while roaming the trails at Jewel Cave National Monument. These are but a small fraction of the wildflowers that grow through the summer season in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Settings: Model: Nikon D80 Shutter: 1/1000 sec Exposure Program: Aperture Priority F-Stop: f/2.5 ISO: 100 Focal Length: 35mm Lighting: None Settings: Model: Nikon D80 Shutter: 1/60 sec Exposure Program: Aperture Priority F-Stop: f/8 ISO: 100 Focal Length: 35mm Lighting: None Settings: Model: Nikon D80 Shutter: 1/320 sec Exposure Program: Aperture Priority F-Stop: f/1.8 ISO: 100 Focal Length: 35mm...
I have a long backlog of photographs from this past summer that I am beginning to work my way through and will be showcasing the best of over the next few weeks. I have a goal of attempting a showing of my photography in the Sioux Falls area sometime in the next nine months. I have had friends over the years doing showings at places like Black Sheep Coffee as well as at my alma matre, Augustana College and I hope to select a few prints to really work through in photoshop, professionally print, matte, frame, and display. The above...
October 24, 2011

Food Photography

I am a rather shy person when it comes to photographing people I don’t know. Food, provides a good substitute. Particularly since food can be positioned and set out to take advantage of both artificial and natural light. The above photograph was taken at noon using natural light filtering in through my dining room window. The arrangement takes advantage of the strong diagonals created by the stone table and the red rose mirrors the tones of the hearty bowl of Russian borscht that I had prepared some weeks prior. Settings Model: Nikon D80 Shutter: 1/500 sec Exposure Program: Aperture Priority...
Most of my favorite web comics are ones that I discover near the end of their runs. Michael Poe’s Exploitation Now!, Josh Phillip’s Avalon, or It’s Walky – I stumbled upon these near the end of their runs where I could sit down and spend several days reading through the archives. This last month, I embarked upon reading through the archives of two of my favorite web cartoonists: Michael Poe and Fred Gallagher. The experience of reading through an archive is vastly different from following along as the comic is created. Often in the daily wait between new pages months...
My fourth, and perhaps last, season at Jewel Cave came to a close on September 10, 2011. I started at JECA in 2008 as a college summer job and I was surprised when I found myself going back to the cave again for three additional seasons. Leaving the park service was a sad, but necessary move, and although I forswore the city of Sioux Falls when I graduated college – it looks like I’m back again! A lot of items have been on my plate over the last two months and only now am I starting to get a small...
August 13, 2011

Cave Photography #2

I again returned to Jewel Cave’s Wild Caving Route with my camera to take photographs of the route. I find that the NPS Library for the route is rather sparse requiring our brochures to consist of photographs of visitors during tours rather than set photographs designed to illustrate the challenges of the route itself. To get the equipment into the route is no easy challenge. The pelican cases are bulky and heavy. The plastic tends to cut into my side, throw me off balance, and generally turn an easy trail into a nightmarish pain. In order to minimize the time...
Wow! Over a month since my last post. Time as a Park Ranger get’s away from me during the summer. I want to be underground in the cave, above ground on the trails – everywhere with a camera and back at the apartment working on my art. This last week I worked on sketching from screen captures of various music videos. The one selected for the blog is a sketch from Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” Now, I must say that Gaga is not really my typical fair (I’d more of a Progressive/Post Rock fan with a long playlist of Yes,...
Continuing the sword-collecting series, I take a look at Muramasa for the Nintendo Wii. Before I begin, let me get it out of the way. I am a big fan of Vanillaware’s previous title, Odin Sphere, and the overall design philosophy of revisiting the game design challenges of two-dimensional design. It was a sad day when developers jumped ship for three-dimensional graphics, and I find it nice that there are still a few developers out there who, like me, would rather see the processing power of our new consoles put to envisioning the advances of the older two-dimensional genres. In...
Not the best sketch ever, but I had to get something up for the week. Work on the comic continues to dominate my time, so I had only a few minutes in the week to work on any kind of sketching. This one is a quick draft of a canal bridge based off a photograph taken in southern Michigan.
I am back from a long break from web-posting due to settling back into the day-to-day routine of being a Park Ranger. The job takes a lot out of me, and I find little time in the evenings to work on projects. Yet, after four years of this, I think I have found how to take this job in stride. After a grueling day running around a cave, talking endlessly to visitors, and editing brochures – I get home and immediately shift gears to drawing, writing, and editing. Nevertheless, there is never enough time to get to everything, hence the...
April 28, 2011

Ivan Character Sheet

I’ll be moving back to South Dakota over this week so I’m pre-posting comics for the next two weeks and hoping that they will all go live at the appropriate times. Thursdays will be filler-art days for the next two weeks due to the move as well. This week’s filler is a character sheet where I was trying out different expressions for Ivan while trying to see how accurately I could redraw the shape of his head. I’m still not satisfied with the character of Ivan both as a character as well as his overall design. He might suffer a...
I realized yesterday that the “Writing” link on the portfolio was broken. A quick fix for all those fans who want to continue reading my Kierkegaard thesis. This week’s sketch journal is a little late due to the Easter holiday. I traveled south to Indiana to visit relatives over the weekend (but mostly to play fetch with their dogs, I do miss having a good lab to play fetch with). I promised myself to spend a great deal of time sketching on the trip, but alas promises soon fade. One item I did work on was gestures for comic book...
Following Super Mario Galaxy and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, I began Katanagatari and Muramasa – a show about collecting swords and a game about collecting swords! Similar plots match similar settings, as both series are set in the early Genroku period shortly after the shogun unite the warring kingdoms of Japan. This week, I’ll take a look at Katanagatari. In Katanagatari the protagonists, Togame the “Strategian” convinces Shichika, a swordsman (more like a marital artist) to help her collect twelve deviant blades of Shikizaki – whose power is fabled to grant dominion over the world if collected together. Together they travel...
I’ve been very busy working on the script and sketches for my webcomic this week, so I had very little time to extra sketching on the side. So here’s a graphite scribble composing a couple different people I know into a single caricature.
I follow roughly thirty webcomics on a daily basis. I say roughly because this number tends to change a lot. I cull the collection about once a year to remove comics on hiatus and comics that I grew bored with. Yet, this is counterbalanced by binging on new webcomics. Once and a while, I’ll just start clicking on ads for new comics, dig through the links on my favorite comics and discover (or re-discover) new series to read. There are a few criteria that I look for in a new comic to follow: An archive! I want to know that...
My second week of sketching focused on perspective using a rustic-era shed that I photographed in Olympic National Park. The sketch is primarily contour lines, but I hope to ink and shade it later this week which will improve upon its present “rough” look.
I started watching Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 just a few days before the quake hit Japan last month. For those who don’t know, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 depicts the aftermath of an 8.0 magnitude earthquake centered on Tokyo. The creators of the show set out to deliberately create an accurate account of what such an event would be like that is, no over-the-top anime hijinks, no racy sexuality, no big-time explosions, none of the more fantastical elements we expect from anime. I must admit, I am not a fan of realism, and with it’s strong emphasis on realism, Tokyo Magnitude suffers the...
April 01, 2011

Super Moon Photos

Because of it’s 30% extra brightness, the full moon of March, 2011 was dubbed the “Super Moon.” This was some night photography I couldn’t pass up! This composite shot was taken from the shadow of Stonington Peninsula’s lighthouse looking eastward over Lake Michigan. The moon rose promptly at 8:15 as a bright orange ball and climbed over the lake. I took each of roughly thirty shots from my tripod, but a strong wind and cold ruined many of the takes. The final result is a composition of two shots at different apertures. The first shot is adjusted to capture the...
March 31, 2011

Don Character Sheet

The process of working on the comic continues and today I present my draft sheet for the character of Don. I tried on this sheet to experiment a little with his design. For one, out of all the character’s Don was the most complete out-of-the-box. He is based on a statue of Don Quixote that my drawing professor at Augustana had us draw. Indeed, many of these characters are based on weird statues he had us draw. Thus, when it came time to draw his character sheet, I decided to experiment. I colored in his mustache, removed the bandeliers and...
March 28, 2011

Super Mario Galaxy, A Review

Filed under: Literary Criticism
Having done Zelda and now Mario, I think I might end up with a long run of Nintendo-game-related articles. Super Mario Galaxy was one of the launch titles for the Nintendo Wii back in 2006 when the system was still nigh impossible to find on store shelves. Wait a few years and it becomes surprisingly easy to find, however, not cheaper. Unlike Sony, who tends to drop their best-selling title prices soon after launch, Nintendo keeps prices high and even today a copy of Mario Galaxy runs for $40.54 on Amazon, a mere $6.37 cheaper than it’s recently released sequel....
I dabbling more and more with JavaScript lately. In the past my solutions to most site-related problems has been to write server-side PHP modules to add whatever functionality I needed. Since I started using WordPress to manage my site content, I started finding myself using JavaScript to ease-up on the amount of html that I need to type into my post boxes. Take Lightbox for an example. Lightbox is a pretty amazing piece of JavaScript that easily creates animated slideshows out of a series of image links. I use it on my art and photography pages. The problem with Lightbox?...
A friend of mine (Alex Stommes) started keeping a sketch journal last summer. His plan was to post a sketch every day to the journal. The idea of this process was that it would encourage an active involvement in the art and a deadline to produce something each day. I found the idea intriguing and the results quite superb. By the end of the summer he improved immensely, and he continues to post new material regularly. I wanted to start my own journal, but with my all my ongoing projects keeping a daily journal would require far more commitment than...
First and foremost, I would like to announce the launch of the Wind-Up Culture Blog, my newest blog with a focus on my eclectic taste in film, literature and games. I hope that this (broader) topic will draw a larger audience of readers than my last failed attempt at creating a blog. Anyways, check over there as I hope to keep it regularly updated with reviews, critiques, and commentary about popular art in general. You may notice some minor changes to this site. First, I’ve moved all of my sites from JustHost over to a shiny new space at HostNexus...
March 15, 2011

Zelda: Spirit Tracks Review

Filed under: Literary Criticism
As I grow older, I increasingly become one of those gamers who spends a great deal of time reading about the hobby rather than doing it. In-between becoming a curmudgeon who complains about how they just don’t make games like they used to, I find a few games that still capture my attention. Zelda: Spirit Tracks would be one such game. I would love to speak fondly of how Spirit Tracks embodies the wide open spaces of Ocarina, or how the interlocking and complex dungeons rivaled the masterful level design of Link’s Awakening. Unfortunately, I cannot. The curmudgeon must come...
March 10, 2011

A.M.

Filed under: Fiction
The blazing orb had long fled the western skyline. And on the fifteenth hour of a run across the Midwest with only headlights to cut a tunnel through the void, I swam, like a smelt amongst trout, down the asphalt American stream. Careless of me, the giants loomed from the night-fog, carrying their hidden cargo, to destinations unknown. I sat in my shell, protected from the cold exterior, the flaying winds, and the night sounds. In that rattling chamber I rocketed across the land-locked interior. The AM stations guided my way. The mouth of the radio spoke the world of...
March 10, 2011

Art Gallery

I returned to drawing in my final year of college following a half-decade hiatus. Akin to my photographic work, I tend to focus on space and atmosphere. The interconnections of parts forming into textures, brisk ink lines and sharp architectural shapes with muted or monochromatic colors fascinate me. In recent years, I have taken to community figure drawing sessions to enhance my skills outside of still life. I aspire towards integrating illustration, and particular sequential art into my narrative storytelling.
March 09, 2011

Photography

After five years of hauling it through caving expeditions, European bicycling trips and countless backpacking expeditions, my Nikon d80 seems a nigh indestructible tool. My photographic work, a hobby I picked up during a college trip abroad, focuses principally on nature and those spaces that I think capture the revelation of the the sublime in a particular space. As such, I tend to work mostly with natural lighting using prime lenses to compose my observations. My photographs have been featured in a number of National Park Service publications related to Jewel Cave National Monument and in advertisements promoting the Black...
February 22, 2011

Gnome Sheet

If you actually read my blog entries you might begin to notice a very nice pattern to them. It begins “I promise to start updating!” Soon after making such a promise, I look at the comics to come and realize that they suck. I drag my feet on releasing them. I dabble with just starting over. I draw some character sketches. I “practice” my inking. So very many excuses, and fortunately, so very few readers to complain! My excuse this time? I am working on the script and the background. When I began to write up the background, I found...
February 03, 2011

Som Sheet, Scan #2

Continuing the series of character sheets from the past two days. . . Today, let’s look at the 1200DPI scan of the character sheet. The higher-resolution scan resulted in a 75MB TIFF image that crawled even my design rig to a halt. I put the 1200DPI scan through the same process as the 300DPI scan, but this time I found a surprising change when it came time for live-tracing. The Illustrator traced the image correctly without my fiddling with the threshold! I still had the nice smoothing effect that live trace gave to my inks, but with the higher resolution it kept...
February 02, 2011

Som Sheet, Scan #1

I continue the parade of character sheets from yesterday. Recall that I mentioned scanning the sheet at both 300DPI and 1200DPI, the result of the lower-resolution scan is what we will examine today. After scanning the sketch, I opened Photoshop and adjusted the levels (Image > Adjustments > Levels or Image > Adjustments > Curves) to give the inked lines a rich black look. Then I placed the image into illustrator and set the program to live trace. The benefit of live trace is two fold. Illustrator inks much better than I. The results smooth out many of the “shaky...
February 02, 2011

Field Report

Filed under: Journal
The campaign continues as I work to spread my resume about to those employers who would take me. Nonetheless, morale weakens and I find myself dabbling more and more in various research projects. I assessed my skills over Christmas, and found myself rather diverse. I am a writer, graphic designer, photographer, and programmer. Fitting all of those into one job title is difficult. Fortunately, I find that a lot of rural areas I’m looking at are looking for weird hybrid web developers. Rural organizations are more likely to want someone who can design, code, and draft content for a site...
February 01, 2011

Somnaire Character Sheet

Let me begin my series of filler sketches by going over some character sheets. In the past months, I’ve sketched the characters over and over again. Some character like the Dwarf, or Don came naturally to me. I sketched them down once, thought them satisfactory, and went on my way. Som and Ivan, however, never felt right. Occasionally, I get a frame where I think “yes, this is right. This is what Som should look like.” More often, I flounder about and the only connection from one frame to the next is that she’s the only female caste member. Thus, this...