My Horseback Riding Journey {APADO #5}

(APADO = a post a day; october. I’m trying to post once a day for a month and it’s kind of killing me, but I’m doing alright. *wipes brow*)

(I really, really, really need to get batteries for my camera so I can take some photos for blog posts instead of relying on my backlog.)

(and this post is kinda personal so if that’s not your thing then that’s okay ^w^)

APADO 5

I think it’s public knowledge that I love horseback riding. I’ve been doing it for three years now and I feel like it’s going to be a part of me for the rest of my life.

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these photos all look bad but I don’t have time to fuss over it right now

Though I had loved horses for all my life, I didn’t sit on a horse until I was 12, when I saved up all my money and bought a semester of riding lessons. They weren’t exactly as I’d imagined, but they weren’t too far off. I’d say the best thing I learned was how to groom a horse. I had no idea how much I’d use it later.

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There was a little show at the end of them – just to show off to our parents what we’d learned. I placed last in all the classes, but I had fun.

All my ribbons said “participant”. As in “good try!”

Of course, I didn’t really care that much about the ribbons. (Honestly, I was just glad I had won anything.) What I did care about, however, was how expensive the lessons were.

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hanging with my uncle’s crazy horses

I spent that summer still obsessed with horses (as usual), wondering what I should do. I could either get rich or get creative.

I chose to get creative.

That fall, I started helping out at a broodmare farm. I groomed horses, mucked out stalls, and did whatever I needed to do. And it was here, at Willow Tree Farm, that I found out that I love to ride bareback.

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I also drew this picture of one of their horses. on notebook paper.

There wasn’t, though, enough to do at Willow to justify my riding there – I didn’t have enough experience to do what really needed to be done. Even though I didn’t want to leave, I unofficially started looking for another place. But the chilly evenings spent cleaning tack or riding bareback on their old jumping mare will always be a special time in my life.

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i’m legit always wearing this tobymac shirt to the barn?

I found Skyline Farm at the beginning of last year. It’s a stable that specializes in riding lessons for all ages. Being the dork I am, I wrote a letter asking if I could trade barnwork for riding lessons, and eventually started assisting the trainers during the kids’ lessons. It’s actually a really fun job. And I get paid in – oh yes – riding lessons.

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from one of my gopro videos

I really have to thank my trainers at Skyline for getting me to the place I am in my riding skill today. When I came, I hadn’t even trotted yet. Now I’m jumping and cantering and stuff.

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I even competed in a small show they had there (and actually won first place!)

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from another gopro video

But what’s really made Skyline good for me is all the ground experience I’m getting. I’ve learned so much more through helping out with lessons than if I were just taking them myself.

Honestly, I don’t know what my horse future has in store for me. But I’m just going to keep in stride with it, to use a horse term. Hehe.

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If it’s anything like how things have been so far, I don’t think I’ll ever be bored.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

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Conversations With 13-Year-Old Me {APADO #4}

(This post is part of a series called APADO, where I try my hardest to post once a day for the entire month of October. So far, so good.)
(I’ve been giving a lot of advice recently and it feels weird so I’m just gonna talk about cringey old posts okay? okay.)

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What was I doing in 2016?

I was being a little weirdo (and enjoying it).

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this is from a video my brother took of us fooling around at a uhaul place in amarillo. in 2016. it wasn’t supposed to be slo mo but doesn’t it look majestic?

I was playing in the snow, hiking and camping, riding bareback at Willow Tree Farm, and really enjoying my childhood (even though I was technically a teenager).

I was starting this blog.

According to my first post, I was a horse-nut, writer, gardener, photographer, half-crafter, artist, and reader. What is “artist” doing so low on this list?

I had a huge vocabulary and no discretion on when to use it. I was throwing around words like “liable”, “whatnot”, and “filibuster”, just because I could.

I was clueless on how I should talk to my followers. Or to anyone, for that matter.

In short, I was being every 13-year-old: living life, having a good time and thinking I was better than everyone else.

And, as a result, my first posts on this blog are really dumb and self-absorbed. On one hand, I want to bury them and hope they never meet the eyes of anyone I respect and trust.

But on the other hand, why bury what you could ridicule? Publically? For your followers’ enjoyment?

The things I do for you guys.

Let’s go see what 13-year-old me was up to.

We’re diving right in with my first post. It was called “The Beginning Of It All”, and it starts:

G’day. I’ll bet you came here from Silver Sky Dolls, my other blog, and I’ll bet you’re wondering why I decided to begin the personal blogging adventure.

Okay, Tess. Never assume that your followers are wondering anything, because they’re probably not (unless they just worship you). Oh, I forgot. You don’t have any followers! Yet.

Why Steeplechase? It’s sort of a crazy name. A steeplechase in the horse world is a race that goes through several jumps and ditches. My outlook on life is a lot like that – a lot of it is going through obstacles. In this same way, my blog is not themed persay, unless me-themed counts.

I know you’re trying to sound like you’re knowing what you’re doing by explaining this blog’s name. Why don’t you just tell them the truth – that you just picked the name because it sounded cool?

(Honestly, I’m surprised I was able to be trusted to pick a good blog name at age 13. By some miracle, I still like it.)

I have my feet wet in a lot of places, and I am liable to get them wet in several more over the years.

Yep! You’re right! You might go on to try animation, embroidery, and sticking googly eyes to anything and everything.

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I went on to talk about envelope art. I didn’t really make a point, maybe besides that presentation is important.

I finished that post with this little specimen of a note:

(P.S: Soon, I will go to THE TALLEST PLACE IN TEXAS….Guadalupe Peak! It is an 8-mile round trip for hikers. I’ll be traveling every week next month, so we’re going to have a little bit of a traveling theme for here at Steeplechase and at the partner blog Silver Sky Dolls.)

Get used to travelling, Tess. You’re going to be doing a lot more of it in years to come.

(Also: is the hike the eight-mile round trip or is that the distance to the park? Clarity is important.)

(And: please stop considering SSD as a partner blog. It really is its own thing.)

I did end up going to Guadalupe Peak a few days later, though. That hiking trip was a lot of fun.

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I must have been exhausted when I wrote this post, though, because it has less energy than a slug taking melatonin.

So…We Meet Again…For The Third Time… (Let’s hope I can say that without sounding like your nemesis.)

That’s creepy, Tess. Please stop. It’s not “cool” to be creepy.

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This is a very bad, very blurry picture…

Oh, get used to that, too! Your pictures will be bad and blurry for years to come. Isn’t that comforting?

I had intended to go to bed at ten o’clock the night before, but that didn’t happen, and I was in bed at eleven-thirty. (I sort of go to bed kind of late all the time. Nobody’s perfect.) I didn’t get to sleep until midnight. (I have a minor form of insomnia, I think. It always takes me a little to get to sleep.) And I woke up at four the next morning, because we needed to leave at five, so I ended up with four hours of sleep. Yippee.

You really should try going to bed earlier. Wouldn’t it be nice to be in the habit of doing that before sleep becomes a thing you crave?

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That’s the scope of things. Consider Guadalupe Mountains National Park as your next hiking destination!

Unless you’re a couch potato. Then you can enjoy my photos!

*slow clapping* Very nice. You just called all your followers who aren’t athletically inclined couch potatoes. Oh wait, you didn’t have any followers at this point.

Until Clara was nice enough to follow me, that is. Love you, Clara! Thanks for dealing with me through thick and thin.

I decided to talk about amateur art after that. It was definitely still amateur at the time.

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awww isn’t completely ignoring perspective and depth cute?

(WARNING: BIG BLOCKS OF MONOLOGUE AHEAD. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THEM.)

So…people will probably not read your monologues, no matter how much you beg. Why don’t you do the obvious and just REWORD YOUR MONOLOGUES, YOU VERBOSE CHILD?

Random tip #1: You can draw anything, even if you don’t specialize in that specific field.

Um…okay? But just a question, Tess – why are you giving art advice? Didn’t you just begin this post by saying you weren’t really an artist?

Random tip #2: It is very, very normal to have bad drawings, sessions or even days. Don’t give up just because it didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to.

Alright, I’ll give it to you – that’s actually pretty solid advice. I mean, that’s a pretty solid “random tip”. You take yourself so seriously, don’t you?

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Random tip #4: Draw from real life, but draw from imagination too.

Well, that’s nice and elucidated. You’re so thorough!

I am not telling you to invent weird creatures or design spaceships (but if you want to, knock yourself out; no one’s holding you back).

*facepalm*

How does that sound, CLARA??? I know you are my only follower right now, so I will start addressing YOU more often. Sound good?

See ya later, CLARA!

From, Tess

So there’s this thing called a signoff, and you can use it so you don’t sound like a sarcastic jerk begging for followers.

I decided to get more personal after this. And hopefully stop giving advice. But I didn’t stop being condescending?

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what’s funny is that my bedroom really hasn’t changed much

I share a bedroom. I have shared a bedroom all my life. Before you go, “Oh, how dreadful!” hear me out. Bedroom sharing is an excellent practice. After all, you’re not always going to have a room all to yourself, be it rooming at a college or grown up and living with your family. Thus, if you have your own room, I am better off than you.

All the flavors in the world, and you choose salty! Okay. This is a good concept worded abhorrently. Maybe you should go for something that doesn’t make people with their own bedrooms feel guilty? Just a rule of thumb – never make your followers feel guilty. Tess, you have so much to learn about writing blog posts.

I hope this inspires you to clean your room!

Spoiler alert, Tessie – it probably didn’t!

Yours sincerely,

Tess

Maybe you meant “sincerely yours”?

I started to get the hang of things, though. Which is good. I started to try to add humor into my posts. Which…is good in some ways and not really great in others?

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Random tip: If you want to draw a horse in action, but can’t draw a rider for beans, put it on a lunge line, like so:

TESS. “RANDOM TIP” IS NOT OKAY. NO ONE CARES ABOUT “RANDOM TIPS”. OR THE WORD “RANDOM”. OR ART ADVICE FROM A 13-YEAR-OLD.

Gah, I was so cocky back then. Or is it confidence? I can’t tell which is worse, though – to draw horribly and be proud of it? Or to draw well and stress about improvement?

I’m leaning toward stress, though. At least you’re tolerable to be around.

Unlike a certain 13-year-old me.

Ready to be blown away?

(Well, don’t take my word for it, but I am positive you will be.)

Do yourself a favor and stop taking yourself so seriously.

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Most Western bits are made of a metal called sweet iron. The reason they call it such is because it tastes sweet in a horse’s mouth, the same way pennies taste sweeter than dimes. (If, as a young child, you ever ate your father’s coin collection, you would know what I’m talking about.)

So, this is actually okay, Tess. You went straight to the point, you explained it well, and you actually made it semi-funny.

(But maybe I just think it’s funny because everything else in these posts is so unfunny, this stands out as mildly amusing. Hm.)

That minor success doesn’t stick around for long, though.

I went and did the stupidest thing. The unthinkable. I wrote a self-centered, boring, rambly “top ten things you didn’t know about me” post. Oh, Tess, you’re an idiot.

7. My second favorite animals (horses are first) are blue macaws.

Tess? There’s this animal -it’s called a wolf. It’s majestic, beautiful and fun to draw. Have you ever heard of it?

I’m still drawing. Still doing amateur art.

It still looks kind of terrible.

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once upon a time, this was my best piece of work.

What would you like to see me draw? I’ll consider it.

What would I like to see you draw? Something that has respect for proportions and volume. Ahem.

Things I wish I could tell 13-year-old Tess

  • You are a cocky little jerk who can’t stop talking about yourself. Seriously. Yes, it’s your blog, but that doesn’t mean you can think you’re better than everyone else. Newsflash: you’re not.
  • Your art needs improvement. Also, please start learning to shade now, so that when you’re older, you’ll be better at it.
  • “Random tips” do not equal sound advice.
  • Drop gardening as a hobby. You have a black thumb and you kind of know it, but you’re too prideful to admit it, aren’t you?
  • Be nice to your followers. They might end up being your best friends one day.
  • And please, please, please tone down on the verbosity! THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO USE THE WORD “LIABLE” IN A PERSONAL BLOG POST. EVER.

Conclusion

Disclaimer: I don’t mean to bash beginner bloggers. There’s a learning curve to it, just like anything, and it takes quite a while to get the hang of the right tone of voice to use.

(Here’s where I wonder if I’m being cocky again. I think my blogging tone is good right now, but that’s what I thought back then…oh no, here comes the anxiety.)

I think I was most shocked by my personality back then, though. I haven’t ever realized what a stuck-up, prideful twit I used to be. In fact, I used to think I’ve always been a nice person. Maybe not so much anymore.

It’s very, very encouraging to look back on these posts and see how far I’ve come. In maybe more than just my posts’ quality. Hehe.

tl;dr: Don’t be cocky. Unless, of course, you want an ample supply of cringe to read later.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

Nine Months In The Making

Animation.

My first real animation wasn’t supposed to take nine months. Actually, I was supposed to have it finished in two. But a lot came up, I had a lot to learn, and I went through a period of fluctuating self-esteem that crippled my workflow.

But I’m finally done, and it’s been quite the wild ride to this point. So here we are – the super-duper-animation-post-I’ve-been-thinking-about-for-awhile-now.

Let’s get into it!

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My Journey To Animation: A Brief History

Like most kids, I’d played around with notepads and stop motions. At one point, I even had this little animation kit thing (it included a zoetrope and was actually really awesome – I wish I had kept it!).

Last year, I made some little animated gifs. They were really REALLY labor-intensive – lots of tracing and stuff. I documented that on Steeplechase in this post.

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However, I couldn’t keep folding papers into eighths in lieu of a lightboard. I had to face the fact that I needed to use the computer if I was going to take this from a passing whim to a serious hobby.

Now before you come at me with that “but-Disney-cartoons-are-all-made-on-paper-you-tech-spoiled-millenial” snobbishness, allow me to defend myself. Disney is a company made up of hundreds of people. Disney animators don’t have to worry about:

  • storyboarding
  • inbetweening
  • lineart
  • coloring
  • shading
  • backgrounds
  • sound mixing
  • editing
  • producing
  • directing
  • lack of inspiration. (Well, maybe not.)

If you’re an independent animator (meaning you’re a one-man-show), then you have to do all of that yourself. Oh yeah, and animate, too. 😛 A computer program makes it much easier and smoother to make your own animations without a inking, painting, or backgrounds department.

I ended up purchasing a drawing tablet on Amazon. Technically, his name is Cedric, and he’s Constance’s secret admirer. (Clara, I guess I should have warned you about that. ;)) After doing some research, I found out how to legally download an ancient version of Flash, Adobe’s ever-popular animation program.

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shhhh, this picture’s kinda old.

So I was all set! Now – to actually animate something.

I had heard about Multi-Animator Projects (we affectionately call them MAPs), so I decided I should start there.

What is a Multi-Animator Project (MAP)?

Basically, someone takes a song, divides it into 10-second parts, and posts it up for “auditions”. There are all kinds of MAPs (fandom, original character, vent, positivity, beginner-friendly, etc.) for all kinds of tastes. Most of them are kind of edgy or centered on Warrior Cats, but there are more than a few acceptable ones. Most of the time, anyway.

I decided to go out on a limb and just admit my noobiness to a MAP host and beg ask for a part. And he was gracious enough to accept!

So here I was, with my tablet, my Flash, my MAP part – and absolutely no idea what I had gotten into.

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I started by cutting the audio. I downloaded the song we were using, put it into my fancy audio editing software, and clipped it down to just my part.

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Totally not just Windows Movie Maker. 😉 Also you have to set a picture for it so you can turn it into an mp4 and then turn that mp4 into an mp3…and I have a weird sense of humor.

Once I had the audio for my part, I imported into Flash and set it in its own layer, so that I could start animating.

Audio on its own layer

(Layers are just what they sound like – different layers of stuff that you can stack on top of each other. For example, if the tail of your character is the only thing that’s moving, you can put the character’s still body on one layer and the tail on another and just animate the tail without having to redraw the body over and over again.)

The next step was to make an animatic – a moving storyboard. I sketched out all the poses that I wanted my character to be in and put them at the right times for the music. (We call those poses keyframes.) As in, I wanted my wolf to stand up at the first “oh-oh-oh”, so I drew him in a standing position and put it at that time in the timeline (the number bar at the top).

(Also, I was a doofus and deleted all my sketch layers. 😦 So I have virtually no pictures to show for it.)

Rough sketches came next. I filled in the gaps between my keyframes with ugly, scribbly drawings. It was important that I made a sketch for every single frame, because I’m not the sort of person who can just freehand pretty drawings.

Before I got into anything fancy, though, I made the background. (It took me two and a half hours and a ton of headbanging, hairpulling, and complaining on how hard it is to do a nice gradient in Flash.) The reason I made it so early on is simple – it’s like painting. You do the background first to get an idea of what your setting will look like before you start coloring things in, so that you don’t end up with a background that looks like a cheap mid-90s green screen job.

Background

Background + sketches
Sketches + background! This is a screenshot of the WIP I put on Youtube (I hadn’t decided I liked the heavy lines on the background yet).

After the rough sketches moved the way I wanted them to, I started on lineartthe pretty lines that turn this tornado of chicken scratch into an actual wolf. I traced them over my sketches on a new layer.

Lineart

With the lineart moving along nicely, I filled in the color. At this point, he looks flat and out of place, but we’re about to fix that with…

Color

shading! It took me a little while to decide how to do the shading. I eventually decided on running over the appropriate areas with an opaque black (so that the lineart and color shows through, but it’s darker). This was a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that I got through by listening to music.

Shading

Shading is all well and good, but without ground shadows, it was still looking funny. Of course, my wolf goes into a heavily shadowed place halfway through the sequence, so I didn’t have to do the shadows after that point, but I did need dramatic ground shadows for the first half. I have to confess that I cheated a bit – instead of trying to freehand the shadows (and inevidably messing it up, because shadows are my nemeses), I just copied the lineart, turned it all black, flipped it upside down, angled it, and set the opacity. Which was definitely much more accurate than trying to freehand everything.

Ground Shadows

After a few final touches (and a lot of celebration), I converted my Flash file to an mp4, uploaded it to YouTube, notified my MAP host that I’d finished (finally!) and…

*drumroll*

here it is!

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Click the picture to watch!

I know that a lot of you guys are not allowed on YouTube, so Madison has been kind enough to put it into her media files and give me the link, so you guys can watch! If you live in a cave and don’t know who Madi is, be sure to check her out!

(Wait – does this mean I have a sponsor? NO WAY.)

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Bottom line?

Animation is hard. It’s frustrating, labor-intensive, patience-testing, difficult on perfectionists…

…and SO. MUCH. FUN.

With my first animation now under my belt, I’m going to promptly sign up for another MAP. Why? I live by a little maxim, and it applies to pretty much everything. It goes:

The best way to do it better is to do it more.

So I’m going to go at it again, animate something else, and learn even more than I learned this time around.

Let’s just hope that this one doesn’t take nine months to complete. 😉

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

Movie Review: Dunkirk (no spoilers!)

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Dunkirk is unlike any other film I’ve seen. Once you’re past the advertisements and the lights dim in the theater, you’re no longer sitting on your tush in the air conditioning. The room around you becomes frigid, you begin to breathe through your mouth, the adrenaline builds up within you, and you’re there, on that beach, for one of the most thought-provoking two hours of your life.

Disclaimer: All thoughts are my own and are not endorsed by anyone other than myself.

Directed by Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk is the story of, frankly, the British evacuation from the French beach of that name. With German bombers flying over to try and annihalate the 400,000 British and French soldiers on the beach and hundreds dying daily, the outlook for them is pretty bleak.

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The most interesting thing about this film is the lack of dialogue. I don’t think there are a hundred lines in the whole movie. Most of the experience is in what you see and what you hear.

My favourite film genre is war, so naturally I’ve seen a lot of the classic war films. This one definitely stands out in a couple of ways:

  1. The colors. Most war movies have a theme of brown, green and black (very warm colors). This one was a lot of grey and blue, which made it feel very cold. That and all the water on screen had me walking out of the theater freezing to death.
  2. The music. If you go and look up the soundtrack, you’ll find that there is a ticking noise in the background of every piece. This ticking noise did not cease for the entire film, giving a sense of urgency (time is running out).
  3. The characters. I only caught the names of two of the characters (Peter and George). In addition to these, there was the infantry soldier (I later found out that his name is Tommy – nice allusion to Tommy Atkins!), his friend, and two pilots. It was incredibly realistic in the way that you recognised them by face, not name.
  4. The kind of intensity. There was little to no blood or gore in this film (I only remember seeing blood once). Yet, it was as riveting as Band Of Brothers (a slightly more intense HBO series. Rated TV-M for a reason) without being as violent as that series is. I think the most deaths happen by drowning, which was true. More soldiers drowned trying to get away than those who were bombed on the beach.

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There are genuine Spitfire planes in it, not just CGI. Also, the music is by Hans Zimmer – also a reason to go and see it. And if you’re a One Direction fan, I believe Harry Styles plays a character in it. I’m not a 1D fan, so I didn’t catch that until I went and read the Wiki page did extensive research.

All in all, Dunkirk is one of the best films I think I’ve ever seen, and if you can watch it in IMAX, you should. That wall-to-wall screen just throws you into it.

For those who are a little more sensitive or under 13: You can find the full content advisory as to exactly what’s in it here – I highly suggest doing this. There aren’t any unwarned spoilers. Another thing I would advise is to not watch this movie alone or at night – I am over 13 and went with my brothers, my mum, and my granddad to a matinee.

Verdict: GO SEE NOW!