Stock Media update – new VFX asset pack (and other big news!)

Yes, it’s ‘zero gravity’ pyro – dangling below a black backing, recorded from the ground with a mirror used to reflect the effect between the hanging-from-ceiling setup and the camera itself.

So, I’ve basically shot a batch of zero-G pyro elements, seen above, in a low-budget, smaller-scale form of the same methods used for classic Hollywood miniature effects like the Alderaan/Death Star explosions in ‘Star Wars’ or the destruction of Krypton in ‘Superman’ or any number of things gone boom in space, regardless of how illogical space fireballs actually are from a real-world physics standpoint.

Some such effects, like the Genesis explosion at the end of ‘Star Trek: Wrath of Khan’, are way bigger and shot at ludicrously high framerates. But the same core principles apply! They may have had a three-story hangar with a giant black coating on the ceiling, and multiple layers of thick reinforced industrial plate glass and metal between the camera and the explosion above it (instead of the obviously simpler option of a mirror and a telephoto lens so the camera can zoom into the mirror view from a safe distance) and yeah, they shot at something close to a thousand FPS… but still. This stuff’s only 60, 90 or 120 fps, which is about as good as you can do with a sub-$100 camera and the aim of 4k video. The 60fps is actual 4k, 90-120fps often is 2.7k or 1080p but upscaled with the best available AI solvers at the best possible quality settings. So not all the effects got shot 4k initially but they all look plausible at such a resolution.

The recording also got followed up with a bit of masking and digital compositing work, to remove reflections of the effects onto the [somewhat glossy, coated in fire retardant liquids] paper backdrops, basically everything was soaked in fire suppressing compounds, except for the incendiary material itself that needed to ignite. And of course plenty of safety fuse was set so I could get the hell back before the explosions actually occurred, holding the struck match in one hand, fire extinguishing canister in the other [to spray the space down and put it all out a few seconds after the explosion has happened.]

Mask [n95] worn at all times, high level of ventilation and open to the outdoors, so smoke wouldn’t just hang there but could dissipate well. I did this on days with moderate wind too so that helped.

Basically there was all of that plus gloves, glasses, fireproof blankets, every basic precaution as usual… but this stuff’s still super hazardous and not recommended even if all materials used and all actions taken with the fireworks were legal. Anything with fire is a safety risk. And I’m not going to do this anymore, I think. I had a roster of 40-odd clips I intended to capture and I stopped after less than half that.

Those bright blue sparks? That’s a tiny pinch of magnesium powder. And other additives like titanium, iron, cobalt, or copper can likewise affect color of sparks, as seen in a typical outdoor fireworks display or an unusually colored explosion like the Borg cube [green explosion] miniature effect in ‘Star Trek: First Contact’.

Yeah, I am something of a miniature and practical effects geek. I had a massive ‘Cinefex’ collection back in the day. I was making my own indie videos densely packed with VFX shots and I wanted to know everything related to that, from the practical effects to costumes, set design, makeup/prosthetics, prop assembly, various types of digital 3d animation, high-speed miniature effects, and of course compositing methods to blend all the different visual elements [real, mini or digital] together as needed in some way that looked halfway plausible.

But this is almost surely my last asset pack to use real-world effects of this particular type. Partly because of the risk involved, sure – but also the lack of control of the final effect, and the reality that digital methods are getting to the point of looking almost completely real, if done right.

I’ll be pivoting to digital pyro animation for the remaining effects in this pack. That’s not to say boring looking – there’s a tendency with CG pyro for it too be too perfect, too smoothly shaped, too ‘gas focused’ in the smoke and fire. I’m going to try a few things that may add realism to my future digital effects, as follows:

  1. Use a set of real-world flickering sparks (as a video component layered randomly onto spark particles, which can then be rendered in a way that makes at least that aspect look totally real as it drifts and falls around in the shot. Because I rarely ever see sparks done photorealistically digitally, they usually look like bright glowing dots which is what an animator often chooses because it’s easy -but it looks artificial. Give the sparks a bit of random misshapenness and flicker and use actual randomized video sprites and it can look better.
  2. Sparks and fire that are rendered with a highly realistic shader. The sparks should illuminate volumes of smoke. So should fire. It should all be realistic and messy and chaotic and *Real* looking.
  3. Debris to break up the explosion often, and fly around and physics interact accurately with the gas sim. So the pyro can be more hazardous, and less like ‘gas cloud’ because in real life the gas billowy explosions are rarely the way these things actually happen. There’s usually a thing that explodes, with chunks and bits of it tossed around. My ‘things’ will vary in scale and materials – photogrammetry based 3d scans of actual debris chunks that look photoreal. And they’ll be affected by the gam sim and affect it as well in a way that’s integrated, and there’ll also be smaller physics-sim ‘granular’ particles – sand, grit, dirt, etc. Tiny bits of mess and small pebbles and splinters of wood and larger debris chunks… all intended to be mixed together and to lend credibility and messiness to the whole visual element.
  4. I’ll be using a top-of-the-line desktop my dad got me. It’s sort of expensive but not as much as it seems like it’d be – we got a good deal on it. It’s rendering stuff about 25x as fast as the prior system I had, it has 128GB of RAM and four GPUs in an array and a bunch of blazing fast processors. All my 50+ TB of hard drive storage has already been connected to this new machine. Including a new SSD I plan to acquire soon for software installs. Like the new USB3 hubs, new cables and so on… lots of fresh electronic setups involved. It’s a sprawling mass of electronics crammed into and around a desk. So basically the fact that this machine is a powerful beast of a computer, will make it capable of rendering massive, highly detailed pyro-simulation setups. And integrating cloth/soft body dynamics, rigid objects, granular physics, particle fields and forces, the volumetric gaseous and fire sims, and liquids too – all together, all interacting with each other, all at a very high level of detail. It’ll be amazing, I think.

So where is all this amazing, explosive VFX awesomeness? The real pyro shoot is currently in the newest asset pack I launched on Itch.IO (here) and you can find at least 160 more [earlier] smoke, fire, water, debris, sparks, explosions, etc, clips and elements in previous packs as well if you haven’t gotten those yet.

The new pack is going to be updated every so often with new digital effects. I hope it is a massive success.

Of course, the itch profile I’ve got there is not just VFX video clips. There are also a TON of texture maps (thousands, literally thousands) seamless and photography-based PBR stuff – and a WHOLE LOT of 3d models of various useful things like landscape/outdoor details (trees, fallen branches, wildflowers, grasses, rocks, ferns, etc) and indoor stuff [furnishings and details for 3d indoor settings] and outdoor but urban items (fire hydrants, telephone poles, mailboxes, benches and picnic tables, and other street or park details]

My 3d assets – there are over 150 of them so far, and should be 300+ by end of 2022. They each come in .FBX and .OBJ format, UV-mapped with an associated texture (or multiple textures) and they look fairly real even if they’re usually super-efficient game-ready stuff with modest polycounts and efficient texture mapping (I could imagine even mobile games using these here and there without too much impact on performance).

And finally – of course – I have indie games in development, and my Etsy shop which has printing services and papercraft model designs and original handmade artworks on canvas and much more. I’m really excited about how this is all going.

I do hope it takes off, because I definitely want to shake things up in the world by making a ton of additional creative, low-priced collections and games and other cool things, and I want to make an impact with what I earn, not just pile up cash for myself like a boringly selfish jerk.

Web Network overhaul [late July 2022]

I used to *still* be renewing some of my domains through HostGator still (because those jerks won’t let me transfer them, and now their system’s so broken that the ability to renew the domains no longer exists in any functional form.)

So the reality here is that many of my domain names will be expiring over the next few months.

New (replacement) domain names will be announced here later but for now I’m keeping the new names quiet until they’re successfully registered. Keep in mind though that some of the core domains remain, including HornbostelProductions.com, HornbostelVideos.com, and TriumphantArtists.com. Those three I can guarantee will not change.

As far as the web network in general, I intend to redesign pretty much every single site in it over the next month. I’m already starting that process with what will be the replacement for RedeemerDocumentary.com, RedeemerChurch3d.com [domain acquired, site not all there yet]. This site will now be focused less on any history I had with that or other churches, and more on the 3d reconstruction project related to the church structure.

HornbostelVideos.com will be reworked with WordPress and will look a lot more YouTube-y with a far more modular layout that will make it simpler for me to integrate new video content there periodically over time.

Many of my domains will soon face other changes as well – more consistent and faster-loading banner ad code for example, integrated into [nearly] every page of the network with only a few exceptions. I’m well aware that despite all odds, some of my sites, this one included, are in the top 2 million most visited on the entire internet, according to the likes of Alexa, and should [in theory] be generating a few dollars/day per site, just by existing, and having a few ad slots on them. And as much as I dislike that, I’ll be going along with it, though I will try to minimize the disruptiveness of such ads. No pop-ups or pop-unders, just an embedded banner here and there. If this succeeds to any reasonable extent, it might be key to making the likes of HornbostelVideos.com viable. I have a plan in place for releasing almost my entire past video library there, and that plan should finally be live later this month [here’s hoping, anyway]

Other key updates? Etsy has stabilized nicely, and the shop there continues to gain ground with over 80 positive reviews, and I’ll be posting a few new paintings and other things there soon even though it’s obvious that the affordable printing services are mostly what is successful there. Itch.IO is starting to boom but the July 4th promo did not have the viral impact I hoped it would – I had $25 worth of gift cards ready to hand out and… people didn’t do what was needed to claim them. All the same, the core campaign did draw a few hundred people to the shop and resulted in a small number of sales. So hopefully, things will continue to grow there, and I do have three ratings/reviews there now so the shop is developing a positive reputation finally instead of the ‘no reputation at all’ it had for years. I’m still trying to get a list of things out there by end of summer, including two new VFX packs and a texture collection, more 3d assets, maybe even a game or two if things go smoothly enough.

My sister Katie is running a Kickstarter and I edited the video promoting it for her. You can check that out here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/debutworshipalbum/debut-worship-album-and-music-video

March 2022 update

Right now, my Etsy shop is facing a mess. There are so many people who have placed orders the last month that it reached a point where I was entirely unable to keep up.

The result? Many orders delayed and often partially or fully refunded as apology. By Mar. 20, 2022, the shop was closed, ‘on vacation’ and my message saying why was fairly blunt. It was mostly due to the overwhelming surge of sales that had finally hit a tipping point – I could not keep up even with repeated all nighters. The stress, sleep loss, etc, causing tears coming and going in waves and eventually, at a certain point, thoughts about suicide.

So the shop got shut down for a temporary span, which let me scramble to wrap up all the backlogged and often very delayed orders. When will this Etsy shop reopen? Maybe mid April roughly. The refunds to impatient buyers have erased all gains for March 2022. Hundreds of hours of effort and nothing earned, a pretty typical fail for me really historically. When the shop reopens, it will have prices that are typically 10-15% higher. That may make it sustainable, for a while longer, maybe. But the pricing has been increased 2-3% a month each month since November and still every month has more customers place orders there than the month before. 2022, the three months of madness so far, saw more sales on Etsy than the six preceding years of sales combined.

I will not meaningfully discount or set sales there again for some time.

Itch.Io, however, will be seeing a deep sale for Easter 2022. I hope that it goes well, certainly I have indications that itch is the next Etsy for me finally, just as Etsy promised to be my ‘next eBay’.

It is a recurring pattern, where I promote a shop and its stellar array of unique, labor intensive, and insanely underpriced products incessantly for years and have tens of thousands of visitors and not one buys a damn thing until at some point one person does and reviews what was purchased. Then another, then another. With rising frequency and fervor, this escalates extremely rapidly. I start steadily raising prices and it still continues exploding exponentially. At some point I become swamped and maybe, even have to shut the shop down or at least most of the listings to save my sanity, any shred of it still there.

I think eBay hit that crisis point at least a little slowly. Etsy it happened faster.

I have 410 positive ratings on eBay, 74 positive now on Etsy. Two now on itch.io. No negative reviews anywhere on any of the shops I have run, aside from a single bad rating that changed following a full refund and apology.

eBay crashed and burned in early 2020, Etsy may still fall apart this year…

Itch hasn’t even exploded much quite yet. But it may very soon now that the first couple ratings are there, because usually on my shops that’s when things start escalating faster and faster. Some of you should seriously grab that stuff while the entire contents of the shop are on sale, all bundled for a single dollar, before I am possibly forced to begin raising the prices like what I did on Etsy… and eBay before that. Just pointing this out…

Visit the itch shop maybe during the next (Easter – April 14-17, 2022) sale when it is all still hitting over 90+% off discounts. There is an amazing bundle arriving soon.

https://itch.io/s/68881/easter-2022-80-off-everything

Etsy breakthrough, vol. 2

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MatthewLHornbostel

My previous post noted that things were finally taking off for me on Etsy.

That was in November 2021. Since that time, in the past 50 days, the total sales count on my Etsy shop has more than doubled. Same with the number of customer reviews.

I am seeing, after years of zero activity, an average of 89% quarterly growth in sales volume each quarter the last two years. That is entirely insane. If it somehow kept up that growth curve it would mean I would be making about $4k on Etsy this year (2022) and $20k off Etsy in 2023.

Now, as of January, the standard prices of these products are being increased by around 4-6% across the board. That, in theory, raises profitability a bit, and allows me to justify a ramp up of various new products in popular product lines.

If the prospect of slightly increased prices bugs you, keep in mind that there is a year round discount code active as well for all you in the know, ’22FOR2022′ which allows 22% off everything on my Etsy shop for this entire year.

Custom printing products will soon include about a half dozen new listings, like T shirts, mousepads, and more paper weights and formats including heavy gloss cardstock, in large format, or large format but light weight, cheap copy paper prints.

The plans for mini papercraft will soon include an additional dozen listings with Greek and Venetian structures.

I’ll also add over a dozen new paintings in the next 40 days, plus new digital and print product lines that many of you haven’t considered but which I absolutely have. Sometimes a thing is not an obvious seller until it launches, but once it exists, people look at it, and if it was made well, may want it.

I am doing a bunch of things that are kind of like that. These include cheaply priced digital products (PDF artbooks, indie game projects) and poster designs of my own, among other concepts. I will also be selling a few of my digital things combined on data DVD for anyone who – for whatever reason – wants a hard copy of them.

I will note that this is hugely awesome news in MANY ways.

I have had so many things grinding along slowly due to technical obstacles, or lack of funding, or lack of time. The fact that something I am doing is finally successful means other failing tasks can be phased out (goodbye $2-3 per hour mTurk microtasks) and that I can focus on my own creative work full time pretty much. I can leverage this to get all my indie game projects done this year, maybe within nine months. I have a plan for wrapping three substantial game launches, four smaller ones, in nine months, game jam style. That ordinarily would be insane but all these projects are upwards of 50% done currently, and if I work really hard I actually can imagine having them all done well in six months. But I know that things rarely play out that efficiently or predictably, so I am estimating nine for wiggle room. The final three months of 2022 should see certain other long running non-commercial free games see release. This is essentially a thing that I would really love to see work out well.

Watch this space for some staggeringly cool announcements over the course of 2022…

Etsy breakthrough!

My Etsy shop from 2011-2018, zero sales. 2019, one sale and a positive review which I was quite grateful for. 2020, nine sales. 2021 prior to November, 16 sales. Then came this month, seven sales just this month! And ten reviews now too, all of them glowing five-star reviews!

Now, given enough time it could still unravel due to unreasonable behavior by enough buyers like my eBay shop has. On eBay circa 2020 I pretty much gave up on that… eBay by 2020 I spent hundreds of hours working and was losing money doing so, due to a combination of a flawed and overly generous and too trusting, business model and an alarmingly high proportion of unreasonable customers who were essentially trying to scam me. They would order a personalized artwork, when it arrived they would claim it was damaged or that it was not what they wanted, and threaten to give a scathing review unless there was a full refund. I kept my 100% positive feedback score but only because I was caving to all of these people. It sucked and it has caused me to make three clear determinations – one being no more time consuming personalized art for buyers in most cases unless the buyer has proven exceptionally reasonable through a series of previous orders. Two, is that eBay’s become too much of a cesspool and I don’t want to be an art seller there anymore, though occasionally I still use the platform to buy and sell other things. Three, that I need to enact refund policies that are not excessively trusting and generous, and price just enough profit margin in to survive and still profit despite the few who do still somehow manage to exploit me.

I still believe most buyers are genuine. I still charge less than a typical vendor, and my effective pay per hour remains well below minimum wage doing this. But it’s now not so low that it can be entirely cancelled out for the entire year if a few sales go sideways!

I was not convinced to set the current boundaries because of my own greed or any such thing. Actually, what finally convinced me to do it was the well being of the customers, who wanted timely response and delivery, wanted a growing roster of promising new products from me, wanted my venue to survive and grow because that was good not just for me but for them! And if the shops don’t remain viable that all goes down the tubes so… there is good reason to do what I need to do to make this all sustainable and able to expand.

I have a TON of new things I want to do in the near future. Not all of them make sense as Etsy products but many do. Some – digital games and gamedev asset packs, mainly – are going to be launched mainly on Itch.IO instead, or even Steam. But Itch.IO, despite longstanding efforts to gain reviews and sales there, has yet to really be viable. My Itch.IO profile still lacks the key first review or reviews which is perhaps necessary to get momentum going there.

So here is the plan for late 2021:

-games, a few of my small or midsized projects, will launch on Itch and Steam by end of year. That will likely drive activity to my Itch profile more than asset packs ever could. And it is something I’ve been working towards for an awfully long time regardless.

-asset packs shifting to become accessible outside Itch.IO, including Unity Asset Store submissions and a big complete asset pack collection on DVD and digital download, posted as a product on Etsy.

-Etsy things that are working will be built further if the prints continue to sell well, more print product options, like glossy photo prints, prints on normal weight copy paper, more size options, etc. Likewise, even more colorful and charming miniature papercraft kits based on even more architectural styles.

-sales will continue on Etsy. November 17-30 is now a planned sale range and all the papercraft items will be 40% off, all the other items 25% off, so should be pretty amazing. And there will be another sale leading into Christmas, if you want to cut shipment of things that close! (Dec. 10-18, 2021)

-sales also on Itch.Io. As in… Nov. 20-30, and Dec. 20-Jan. 2, 2022. So that is also going to happen.

As usual, here are the links:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/MatthewLHornbostel/

https://matthornb.itch.io/

Thanks for reading!

Garage Sale now delayed to Oct. 23

As before, please bookmark this page and keep an eye out for updates if this event is of any interest to you. We’ll have a lot of artworks, original ones, in the $6-14 range. Plus a ton of different, cheap house plants grown by my grandmother, and some other items. And even a couple dozen little bags of freebies for those who show up, maybe, if I can get all of that put together in time. Current location is: 118 Queenswood Drive, Cranberry Twp, PA.

I am not sure why I kept misremembering this as ‘wildwood’ as that was clearly inaccurate, there is no street or road named ‘wildwood’ in Cranberry Twp, and having checked it, my grandmother’s address is on Queenswood Drive.

Time keeps shifting around but we are, finally, looking at doing this on Oct. 23, from 1-4 pm. Temperature is expected to be about 54 degrees, overcast, mild winds, possibly a bit of light rain. No guarantees it won’t get pushed back again if the forecasts change but this very well could be what happens. Seems like it is actually moving forward for the 23rd now.

There are some issues ongoing with my Etsy shop that should be fixed any time now, worst likely case that will be back up and running in 4 days (Oct. 19). Best case, it will reopen sooner than that. I have quietly continued to make new artworks so if the shop reopens and you see one or two you love, you might opt to grab them right then instead of waiting until the garage sale (which would be a cheaper option, especially given the total absence of shipping costs. But some items might get snapped up before then, maybe.)

OCTOBER 10, 2021 – supplemental update

The weather keeps messing up our plans. We’d considered a possible garage sale on October 9th, or 16th, in Cranberry, PA at my grandmother’s home on Wildwood Road.

But… looks like a forecast of rain keeps hitting us on every Saturday. At the rate things are going, the next credible timeframe for this is October 30th [the 23rd is looking likely too busy for us, and if we’re set on a Saturday it would be then at the earliest.]

Please – if you’re curious about any of this – bookmark this page and I’ll try to keep it up to date as we figure out what we’re able to do.

The upside of this: More artworks, plants, and other items will be available at this sale when this finally does happen, and things will be better prepared in other ways as well. I also will be able to make a box of freebies available there. Little stuff, mostly, one of each item per visitor. Stickers, booklets, and other such things in a stack of smallish packets. Maybe other surprises in some of them?

Downside: All the uncertainty definitely does keep this a bit confusing. And it may be cold by the late October or possible early November timeframe. So… dress warmly!

In the meantime – check the post below this one for more pics from a past similar event [2019], and a gallery of artworks on sale – plus the link to the Etsy shop which you can visit basically at any time, even if you do miss this garage sale!

The first of a long string of new additional artworks made in the days leading up to the sale. This one in particular was sold very quickly on Etsy, but there are many more new paintings on the way, and all of the ones unsold online will be at the garage sale for under $15/item!

Sept. 22 update

I am posting tons of paintings on Etsy over the span of October, averaging one a day. I am hoping to do that in addition to these artworks already posted there:

-Still getting things back on track with desktop file recovery and it is going well so far even if progress is a bit slower than I’d like. Have a good shot at launching indie game project Panoramic Worlds HD by Halloween 2021… and Miniature Multiverse in early or mid 2022?

-Itch.IO, My new stock media packs I mentioned earlier, may not all be ready by October’s end due to Etsy taking priority.

-I will soon be making dioramas showcasing upcoming mini papercraft sets. I am planning to really have a nice batch of dioramas for release of the Paris, Venice, and Amsterdam papercrafting kits, for example. The miniature stuff is visible on NScaleScenery.com and sold on Etsy.

-Sharlene Hornbostel, my grandmother, is holding a garage sale, assisted by my father, Scott. I am contributing many paintings for sale during it. She has been insistent on doing this despite the pandemic, and she has a mix of assorted used items and TONS of houseplants and other plants she has grown, she has a green thumb and cannot stop them growing everywhere, spreading from container to container. It is just a habit of hers at this point. So she will be unloading a large number of beautiful decorative plants for dirt cheap. I will be contributing well over a dozen items as well, paintings seen on my Etsy shop. Prices at the garage sale won’t be discounted drastically below the current Etsy levels but the opportunity to pick up an artwork for $10 or so and not need to pay a bunch in shipping on top of that? That is a potential opportunity for any of you who attend. Prices of individual paintings without shipping involved should be around 45% of what they are on Etsy.

This garage sale is currently planned for 118 Wildwood Rd, Cranberry, PA on the early-mid afternoon of Saturday, October 16. But the exact info on the hours should appear in the next blog post update along with a few additional image elements relating to the scheduled event. Sharlene is pushing for an earlier date – she suggested October 2 initially and we rejected that, but she is still arguing in favor of Oct. 9 and that now *might* actually happen instead of the 16th, even though it kind of ruins my promotional efforts thus far. As the person posting about this over and over, I kind of wish my dad and grandmother would agree on a day and timeframe well in advance of the thing instead of jerking everyone’s expectations around chaotically and likely losing customers in the process.

Here are a few photos from our last such sale at this address. The artworks and decorative plants will be different and more numerous this time, and it will be held inside the garage, and yeah, I might not be attending myself this year (we’ll see) but this gives you at least some sense of what the event and location might look like.

September – recovering

The Etsy Labor Day sale was not super successful. Indeed, the data-recovery efforts mentioned earlier – getting new external hard drive storage media and downloading cloud backup files back to local storage where they can again be used… plus some other assorted work, costs and issues resulted in delayed payment of a few bills and certain things going down visibly, including the Etsy shop itself for a few days post-sale, and the website MiniatureMultiverse.com which hit its expiry date but was still well within the ten-day grace period when I renewed the domain. Both bills have since been covered and things have indeed stabilized around here.

While customers online have continued to buy things at a gradually growing rate, the really key thing here has been the support of family and in-person connections. I am being paid by my sister Katie to do videography at her upcoming wedding, for example, and am assisting my dad with illustrations on his workbook (a church small-group workbook he’s putting together based on the Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard, I’ll show some of that later…) and all of that I’ve been really trying to do well. I’ll show more of that material soon. In practice, that means over $300 made in the past week between those things and a few sales online.

I’m even doing 3d-animated menu stuff for Katie’s wedding DVD and BluRay, based on what her wedding and reception sites look like:

Reception hall
Sanctuary in 3d
Another view of the sanctuary
Another view of the reception hall

It’s not enough pay to be outright transformative, but it absolutely did get things back on track a bit and it did allow me to cover some new stuff which will result in some things moving forward a bit more. I’m optimistic now, for example, that the stock-media packs I’d planned will be available by Halloween 2021, along with an initial launch of Panoramic Worlds. I’ll also have the first asset pack of mine on Unity’s Asset Store by then, assuming they actually have enough sense to see that it’s good, and approve it.

I am actively making more artworks, listing them on Etsy. Don’t be surprised if there are over 45 listings total on the shop by November 2021… and over 60 by the end of 2021.

That will be not just MANY paintings but also a LOT more papercraft listings showcased with some lovely new dioramas – the urban inspirations for the new sets are Venice, Paris and Amsterdam, so that gives you some sense of what’s planned by end of 2021. I may even have a couple of Greek sets up by the end of the year with both modern Greek structures and ancient Greco-Roman ruins and structures. In case you wanted to make an ancient Rome or Athens and not just stuff from the medieval or later eras. There are a bunch of mini supplies inbound largely for this purpose and a number of those materials may yet find secondary use in wrapping up the physical assembly of remaining areas in ‘Miniature Multiverse’ as well.

HERE ARE MORE NEW PAINTINGS, SEEN ON ETSY:

Lighthouse artwork -this painting sold within just four hours of being listed.
Hummingbird painting – also on stretched canvas

Basically, things are improving for me. And despite some depressing missteps a few days ago, and my opining that I might never have a career success at all given the risk of climate-change related collapse over the next 25 years, right now things are looking up. And while I still believe environmental issues could cause a massive wave of volatility and instability in the coming years, for now I’m feeling like the end of 2021 and the start of 2022 might not be terrible. I might actually have a shot at some sort of success here, and I’d love it if that meant I were able to help people struggling with lack of access to food, medicine, education, etc – all the people already on the brink in this world, who’ll face tremendous adversity as things start to unravel. These people will need our help. Nature, too, will need our help. We will have to dig deep and make sacrifices for everyone and indeed for the planet itself, if the world is to hold together in the coming crisis. And I want to believe that America and Americans can show global leadership, instead of petty tribalism, greed, short-sightedness, and self-absorption. To that end I’ve begun giving more to charitable causes this month than I was even earlier this year… raising the giving level from around 11% of my monthly budget to 23%. I want to make the world better. And I’m hoping that I can do so while also still making creative work that you all will love, at a rate that’s unprecedented. If things continue improving, there’s no reason I couldn’t continue to push my giving upwards as well, which I would love to be able to do.

If you like that idea please continue to support my work – buying on Etsy, Itch.IO, etc – and ideally also reviewing what you’ve bought. Next sales are Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and I think you’ll be excited to see what will be available during those events. Or – you know – you can also buy things quickly at full price if they show up and look interesting. Like what a recent buyer did with the lighthouse art – they saw something they liked, a one-off unique item – and they immediately grabbed it instead of waiting and running the risk somebody else would claim it.

Labor Day art sale!

Etsy: All original handmade artworks at 25% off Papercraft printed kits 50% off. All digital items 70% off. New items posted.

Itch.IO: Everything available at 45% off [individual asset packs] and 90% off [bundle deal]. Note that for various reasons most planned new content won’t be there at time of sale. I’ll explain that in the next paragraph.

Why some items are delayed: It’s not just the fact that attempts to bridge the buyers on Etsy and Itch.IO with a cross-incentive in August failed utterly. (They’re two very different audiences of buyers!)… or the fact that I can’t afford to shoot any new, high-quality VFX 4k stock-media elements packs just yet. No, it has more to do with a deluge of hardware issues on my desktop PC. I’ve had three external drives run into issues in the last two weeks. So that is a huge distraction. It would be heartbreaking and an utter disaster, except for the fact that it is all backed up in the cloud by this point [using Backblaze, which is an amazing service for that kind of thing.] so it’s just a matter of getting new drives as needed and downloading over 11 TB of data back onto the new hardware. I’m struggling because I am focused on that entire process and covering the new costs, and it inevitably has also stalled some projects critically dependent on files which were on those drives. If you want the new collections or anything digital of mine to move forward faster – as usual, buying things from the above shops DOES help keep my work going. There’s a tendency for many of you, an understandable one, to wait until a cool thing is done before buying it – yet somehow be unaware of the practical reality that those big projects like Panoramic Worlds or Miniature Multiverse or whatever else, are often limping slowly along and that financing them in some limited way before launch will in fact help get them wrapped up faster. Buying a thing from me does generally push me to make more like that thing you bought. So if you want more stock media, buying my existing stuff will encourage further work on that. Same with art or miniature papercraft on Etsy, or gamedev efforts, etc. One of the better ways to ‘cast a vote’ for a certain type of project is to buy my entire collection of stock media on Ko-fi for $3.95 – through my Ko-fi shop. You can choose what project type the funds support and I will put them towards creation of content within that category. Same idea also applies to website traffic but to a lesser extent; the more busy a site of mine is, the more it gets prioritized for future updates.

SO, considering THAT LOGIC – obviously we’ve got a problem:

mTurk microtasks and freelancing for others, constitute the SOLID MAJORITY of my online earnings and that pushes me to pursue those more than I’d like. Even though they result in no new creative content of mine usually visible to the public.

In distant second place, Etsy, which has gained a lot of ground over time. Third, eBay, even despite my rarely listing things there lately. And fourth – Itch.IO – indicating exactly why I’m struggling to justify gamedev and stock media as major priorities so far. Limited response to a category slows it down usually, and big success somewhere pushes that category faster. And then there’s the last-place category, ad revenue on my websites. Clearly not a ton to be gained from posting a lot of frequent website updates. Nonetheless, I am going to be pushing forward on that a bit as it seems the sites do drive some 15-20% of the activity and sales to Etsy and Itch and eBay so… in that sense, worthwhile?

And it’s not like earnings are what matter most to me. But they are needed to make better creative work and even to keep things online consistently. My websites went down for a couple of days a month ago… my Etsy shop has just gone offline as well THIS MONTH. And all of that is me scrambling to cover hosting bills, shop fee bills, etc, while also dealing with the cloud backup, local hardware issues, etc. It’s a mess and if things were to go badly it could all easily come crashing down. That’s why I’m having to prioritize some things like mTurk that in a better world, I maybe wouldn’t have to.

Not that I am starting a crowdfunding campaign or any such thing, but… I’d like to see a few of you do simple things like buy something cheap on one of the existing stores during the sales I am going to run, and also rate the item you bought fairly. Maybe leave a comment on the Itch page or an Etsy star rating or something? The more people see feedback from existing buyers, the more they’ll feel safe buying something. Which means your review of an item on my Etsy shop or Itch.IO shop might be an immense positive factor as far as funding goes and thus completion of additional content and updates. Look at what happened on Etsy. My Etsy shop ran from 2015 up to early 2019, no sales, tons of views and no sales. In late 2019 a brave person bought an item, loved it, reviewed it. That was the start and the more reviews were posted the more of the viewers and visitors on Etsy would actually buy something.

From 2015-mid 2019, 0% of visitors on my Etsy shop bought something. This is what happens when a shop has no ratings or responses or comments or any sort of engagement from the customers. My experience on Etsy was that the percentage of visitors who buy anything has gone up by 0.25% after each additional review, so far. Now that four ratings exist, it means 1% of shop visitors will buy an item. Four reviews took the monthly sales level from $0.00 to a new record of over $50 in August 2021. And that sort of thing tends to snowball once it gets moving, so I am asking YOU to look through the items I’ve listed and to find something you like, buy it, review it, and get things accelerating dramatically here.

I realize that every review dramatically increases the odds of any given visitor later on, making a purchase.

I recognize that both my Etsy and Itch shops have thousands of visitors every month now.

I recognize, finally, that if the rate of purchases increase as they have so far on Etsy, in response to reviews – that an added 10 reviews on each platform will mean an added 20-30 sales a month likely in months that follow.

So I can pretty much promise that if a few of you post reviews of things you bought, and looked at once they arrived (either digitally as downloads or as physical items) that those reviews will be transformative in my capacity to get everything moving forward faster and on a larger scale in the near future. I hope this goes well.

Heck, I almost made an offer to donate a certain sum for each review posted, to an array of charitable causes but I did the math and cannot be sure it wouldn’t cause a cascade or collapse of my entire web network. So… no specific numeric promises there but I will be donating whatever I can reasonably spare because as much pain and frustration exists in my life, and yours, there are others even worse off in the world and they do need our help. I can pledge this: If my total earned income ever somehow climbs above $7k a year, which is well above the current level, at least 50% of everything above that, will be given to others who really need it.

I’ve been trying to make things work for 20-odd years now. I’m closing in on my 35th birthday. Really hoping for a breakthrough.

UPDATE now that the [Labor Day] sale is going on:

Here are two new artworks on Etsy:

Western lake
Desserts

More to show up soon.