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Monday, June 30, 2008

Infantry Sword - Step 3

In the third step of the process I have created a little dimension for the sword, added some basic coloring and added texture to increase the appeal of the image. The sword handle and blade are both made of metal so the coloring is just variations of a metallic theme. The sword is iron so I have used a silver and gray tone set to create the right feel for the metal. On the handle I used a texture design to make it more realistic. I finished out the dimensions by creating a chiseled edge for the blade and added some shadowing on the handle. I did all of this coloring and texturing in Photoshop.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Infantry Sword - Step 2

In the next step I created the remainder of the design for the sword. I placed some ornamentation on the sword handle that could also be used for pummeling with the sword making a more versatile weapon. I also will want to create the impression of a defined blade on both sides of the sword. Adding the line around where the blade is honed will make it easier for me to color the blade to create such an effect. With this step complete I can begin adding color to the image.

Infantry Sword - Step 1

The first step of the sword design involves creating the basic blade and handle of the sword. As with the armor, I use a Roman influence in creating the infantry sword. Anyone that is familiar with the basic layout of a gladius will immediately recognize the similar design. I created the sword basic design in Adobe Illustrator which was very simple and extremely easy to do. In creating the sword I decided to make it heavier toward the tip of the blade. I thought this would make the sword a more powerful weapon and increase its effectiveness.

Site Enhancement - Sword Design

The next installment in my site enhancement project shows the steps that I follow in making a sword. The Book of Mormon covers many of the battles between Nephites and Lamanites and details the struggle that often led to bloodshed between believers and non-believers. The sword is an important weapon from the book of Mormon and it symbolizes strength, courage and the will to protect the weak from the tyranny of the wicked. The sword is also an excellent device in explaining how the refining fire of the Master helps to shape and perfect his tools (i.e., believers).

The sword for my site will be an infantry sword that might have been used by any number of thousands of soldiers. The sword will be decorated with symbols that will tie it to the rest of the site and make it interesting to look at. In creating this object I will incorporate parts of the golden plates and helmet that I previously created.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Soul Survivor Update - It's Not Your Fault

Over the last week or so I have received a number of wonderful eMails from people who have read my book. I noticed a theme appearing in some of the eMails and I wanted to do a blog about because I was worried about the regret that some people were feeling. In the notes I received I saw a tendency on the part of members of the Church to hold themselves accountable for things that they had no control over. Worse yet, they beat themselves up over the issues and have apparently done so for a long period of time.

In the years that I have been a member of the church I have seen Latter Day Saints feel guilt for so many things. They feel guilt for things they do and for things they leave undone. Some even feel guilty because they don't feel guilty enough. As a convert I have witnessed my fair share of guilt from other religions and I would say that Mormons are second to none when it comes to holding themselves accountable. As a people we often take the weight of the world upon ourselves and accuse ourselves of the worst things. This entry is specifically for those people who have an overdeveloped sense of self accusations.

Many members of the church who knew someone in high school reach adulthood feeling like they should have been a better example for or should have done more to help someone else. To those Latter Day Saints I say God bless you and thank you for what you did but please let yourself off the hook. Adolescence is a difficult enough time without having to worry about whether or not you compromised the salvation of another teen. You didn't. In fact that is the entire point of my book.

We make choices and are accountable for our own decisions. Right or wrong we are accountable for what we do and not for what others do and the lack of an example doesn't let anyone off the hook. The Article of Faith that this brings to mind is "We believe that men will be apunished for their bown sins, and not for Adam’s ctransgression." I think that remembering that is important for at least allowing ourselves the freedom to feel guilty only about the actual things we do or don't do personally.

Moreover, the people that tend to accuse themselves usually have nothing to be ashamed of. The very fact that they are conscious of their behavior leads me to believe that they do the right kinds of things on a daily basis so that the world is a better place for their having lived. It is my hope and prayer that through these challenges that each person that reads my book will remember that choice is a unique and special gift that enables us to be accountable for our own actions and which gives us the chance to choose to embrace God. I hope that this serves to be a useful bit of information for any that have had similar feelings.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Seminars for Vitamin Shoppe

I had the good fortune this week to participate in Vitamin Shoppe's annual product training event. It was an exciting time and we saw more than 150 of their store managers so it was naturally very busy. For my part I was able to give seven separate presentations that focused on brands, quality and antioxidants. I had to speak quickly to get all of the information out but we had a great time. The Vitamin Shoppe people are very smart and very knowledgeable. They had interesting and insightful questions and comments.

The event took place in Orlando, Florida and we stayed at the Walt Disney Dolphin Hotel. It was a great place to stay and I only wish we had more time to look around. We were here for the week and had very little time for ourselves and could barely catch our collective breath. I did get the chance to eat at some very nice restaurants and had great food at the event.

The only down side to the event was my back. Unfortunately, my symptoms have progressed rather significantly and I am in great difficulty even when I walk more than ten or fifteen steps. I had to use a wheelchair in the airport and have used a wheel chair a little bit in the hotel because it is such a huge place. I saw one guy going around the hotel on a Segway so that should give you some idea of the size of this hotel.

The pain in my back when I am sitting still or standing for less than a couple of hours is very manageable. However, as soon as I have to start walking I find that the pain is nearly unbearable. One of the nice men that I worked with at this event told me about a couple of additional supplements that he had experience with that I had not considered. I will try those in addition to my current regimen. I have to do something because I seem to be getting worse rather than better. My doctors are stumped and keep drawing blood to determine what my problem is.

I am not looking forward to begin using a wheelchair but if I don't I am going to be virtually home bound. I have found a philosophical upside to my back problems. There are many things that could be wrong with my body and I could be much worse off. I try to remember the importance of being grateful for the things I have rather than focusing on the negative. This is a new struggle and I know that I would not have been given the burden if my Father in Heaven did not believe in me.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Golden Plates - FX

These are some samples of the different effects that can be added to the graphic. The images below are some of my favorites although there is virtually an unlimited number of effects that can be applied.

Golden Plates - Step 6

Step 6: Now that I have sealed a portion of the book it can be used in the design for my site. I am going to do one more post on this image to illustrate some of the different ways that the image can be enhanced.

Golden Plates - Step 5

Step 5: In this step I have added the text to the pages and the image could be used as is but it is missing an important element. By looking at this image there doesn't appear to be any sealed portion. So in the next step I will "seal" a portion of the plates.

Golden Plates - Step 4

Step 4: In this step I created a basic 19 character alphabet for use in the inscriptions. LDS scholars suggest that the individual characters in the reformed Egyptian that was used on the plates was a very condensed language enabling the Nephites to record vast amounts of information in a relatively small area. With the characters that I created I attempted to simply create a source from which I could create lines of "text" as is depicted in the image below. On the left is the "alphabet" and on the right is text for one of the pages.

Golden Plates - Step 3

Step 3: In this step I added a dull golden color to the plates and added the rings that bind the plates together. The plates are usually depicted with the three connecting rings so I have stayed with that theme. In this step the plates are starting to take on a very familiar look. But they also need to have writing appear on the face of the plates that are visible so I will need to create a system for the reformed Egyptian that was used to record the Nephite history.

Golden Plates - Step 2

Step 2: In the next step I simply stacked the images to create the appearance of multiple plates. It's simply a matter of copying and pasting and putting them on top of each other. I also slightly varied some of the top plates to give it a more realistic feel. Right now they don't look too much like plates but they will get there. In next step I need to color them and add the linkage.

Golden Plates - Step 1

Step 1: To begin creating the plates I simply need to create a basic shape for a single plate. It is on this shape that the entire graphic is based. Taking extra time to make sure that the shape is going to work for the entire graphic is very important. To create this shape I simply start in Illustrator and create a rectangle with rounded edges. Since the plates were frequently transported, hidden and bumped as the natural course of life more than 2500 years ago I assume that the corners were rounded rather than machine squared. My basic image is created and then modified because my graphic is going to depict the plates as seen from an angle and slightly above. The images below show the first plate and then illustrate how it was modified to create the desired effect.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


My blog is called The Sealed Portion which refers to the section of the golden plates that were sealed. This conjures up images of the plates and I want to add an image of the plates to my blog. The next image tutorial series that I will post will chronicle the steps that I use to making the plates.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 6

Step 6: In the final phase I added some dimension to the image and filled out certain parts. I tried to retain some of the look of a glyph because too much detail transforms it into a different kind of image. I am not opposed to creating a completely different image but I want it to at least have the drawing hearken back to the images that are associated with meso-American glyphs. I raised the edges of the image to give it more of a glyph feel as though it was etched in stone. With the image complete I can now add it to my blog design and begin work on the next element.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 5

Step 5: I completed the basic head design in step 4 so I can build the helmet for the Nephite Captain. Building armor is one of my favorite parts of the process because it is so fun and there are almost no limits to what can be created. The helmet design is of Roman influence. The basic design is of a Roman centurion helmet but has a few of my own features in it. With all of the main components complete I will now begin creating depth, various patterns and a number of other features that make the image interesting.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 4

Step 4: In step four I have begun to help the image start to take shape by adding just a little detail. I also added the rest of the Nephite Captain's hair. I am going to put a helmet on him eventually but I like to create the hair first in the event that I want to use him without a helmet in the future and because I never know exactly how much hair will show when I design the helmet.

For the Nephite Captain I created a hairstyle that is of Roman influence. This is a theme that I often use with the Nephite soldiers despite the fact that we have no idea what their hair styles looked like aside from images from glyphs and drawings from meso-America. When I create Lamanites I tend to adhere more closely to the dark hair and hair styles shown in the artwork that is available. But for the extinct Nephites I feel a little bit more free which is why I also like to add some nicely trimmed facial hair though I don't always add it. Adding these elements is quite simple using Adobe Illustrator because you have absolute control over the image. Anyone, and I mean anyone can create an image like this.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 3

Step 3: I am still working with the character in Adobe Illustrator and am able to add additional features. The eyes for my glyphs are done in a very simple way. The eyes of the glyphs are empty like the many of the actual glyphs that I have seen on meso-American architecture. This is perhaps the only area that I am true to the glyphs as I take artistic license with most of the rest of the design. At this stage I have also added an ear and an eyebrow.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 2

Step 2: The Nephite Captain I am designing will be an ornament for the blog design and I wanted to make his features a more noble so I changed the basic image by adjusting the jaw line and by modifying the nose. By making these changes I communicate the nobility and courage through some of his features. Examine for just a moment how I changed the looks and how those small changes influence the basic appearance of the Nephite Captain. The image on the left is the basic drawing I did first and the image on the right reflects the modifications that I made.

Nephite Captain Glyph - Step 1

When I create images I often start with a sketch that I do freehand and scan into the computer so that I can create a vector image of the image. I have moved away from doing much freehand as a prelude to creating electronic images even though I do still sketch. I have replaced the sketch and scan process with a Bamboo pad which enables me to draw directly on screen. I do my drawings in Adobe Photoshop and copy them into Adobe Illustrator to create the vector images.

Step 1: Because I have drawn dozens of these faces in the past I can skip the sketch step and go right to creating the image as a vector image in Adobe Illustrator. In less than five minutes I create a simple outline of what the face will look like. It may be of interest that I will exaggerate various features such as the jaw, neck and the nose to help reflect the character of the person that I am drawing.

It is worth noting that this basic image needs some additional changes because I am designing a Nephite Captain and I don't feel like this basic image will work for him. Nevertheless it is a good starting point and gives me the design elements I need to begin with.

Site Enhancement

I am doing some redesign for my blog in order to make it more appealing and more suited to the title. As part of the design enhancement I am going to create a series of postings about the process that I follow in creating images. I will discuss the software, thought process and other relevant information that is involved in the creation of these images. Some of the images that I have planned for the site are:

Nephite Captain
Golden Plates

The first element that I am going to add to my site is a glyph of a Nephite Captain from the Book of Mormon and I will blog the process.

A Fine Line...No More

When an author is involved in promoting his book there is a significant amount of leg work that must be done. I mentioned in a previous post how involved this is but what I failed to mention was that it is an enlightening experience as well. In fact, as a function of this process I had an experience yesterday that effectively changed my public position in a very stark way. For years I have attempted to walk a fine line between secular and spiritual life as I have worked to avoid offending people. In my work I deal with a significant number of people who not only don't approve of my faith but go the extra mile to assure that I know about it. Consequently I have tried to avoid making my faith the focal point of important discussions about spirituality and about any of my professional endeavors. Yesterday I found that a change was in order.

To be clear, I have never felt ashamed of being Mormon - quite the contrary. I have included my faith in a central way in my book and it is the core of my spiritual life and informs my temporal life in limitless ways. But I behaved in a way that held back in order to avoid confusing important issues and in an attempt to keep specific doctrines out of the fore in lieu of more general themes. That was up until the day before yesterday. Yesterday, I came to understand that I had to make a choice. If I am to be completely forthright about who I am I must invariably discuss my faith, its guiding effect on my life and how any success that I have enjoyed in my life has been the result of my adopted faith and the covenants I have made with my Heavenly Father.

The turning point was simple enough. In fact, the person who was the catalyst had no way of knowing any of the points but they were instrumental nevertheless. The change resulted from an email that I received from someone who was not critical of my book but was critical of my faith. Among other things she said was this:
"I can’t help but wonder -- I’ve studied much about Mormonism, and cannot see how one who is inside of it, even to writing a book about it, cannot see clearly the holes and fallacies in it that lead to despair.......?"
I must admit that I was taken aback and could not for the life of me figure out what would have prompted such a note.

One thing that has always been a source of confusion for me is the condescending nature of many people who oppose the teachings of the LDS church. They often seek to lecture me on the tenets of the faith as if I am completely unaware. I find it strange to be "instructed" by people who often have a minimal understanding of the church and its history but feel as though they are scholars on a subject upon which my life is built. I don't know how often this happens to other members but it is fairly common for me. I must give the impression that I don't know anything about the church. Alas, I digress.

The email that I received helped to clarify something that has always troubled me and I realized that my faith is and will always be the defining descriptor of my life and work. LDS author, LDS researcher, LDS father are all important descriptors of me and I can think of no better way to be known. With the realization that I cannot and should not attempt to walk the line between secular reputation and religious reputation I have opted for a public life that embraces being Mormon as publicly as I embrace any of my other roles. I must also say that with this realization has come a bit of embarrassment. Not for what I have done but for what I have left undone. In walking the line that I have for these many years it could have given some the impression that I am reluctant to speak about my faith or that I somehow don't ascribe to it the way that I should. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To make my new stance very clear I gave considerable thought to how I would have responded to an email like the one I received versus how I actually did respond given my improved stance regarding my faith. The recipient of my email did not foresee the way I would respond but it heartened me to stand firmly in the place where I belong. My response included the following text:
I was not raised in the LDS church but came to it after years of searching for the true gospel. Having been outside of the church for my formative years and living as I did amid the chaos that surrounded me with the drugs, violence and the sex trade I sought for guidance and help on an almost continual basis.

I know the distinct difference that being a member of the LDS church has had on my life, the life of my sweet wife and on the lives of our four sons. But seeing the fruits of a tree is only part of the picture. When I was converted, I was converted by the power of the Holy Ghost. The truth of the gospel was made manifest to my heart not merely by understanding the atonement of Christ in a factual manner but by feeling the amazing gift that He so willingly offers.

I first grasped the way that the Holy Ghost teaches spirit to spirit by studying the Bible for many years prior to knowing anything about Mormons. In fact, when I first met with the missionaries I had hoped to dissuade them from continuing to follow the Mormon faith. Somewhere during the meeting I had what might be described as an experience somewhat like Saul on the road to Damascus. After the LDS missionaries explained the basics of the gospel, I turned to God for answers. As I sought out His guidance I felt a powerful sensation and an undeniable truth that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives and that the Book of Mormon was in fact “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” I knew then that what I was learning was not just correct but essential and I could not deny it. To deny the powerful sensation that God had given me after following the admonition in James 1:5 would be to deny the Master himself.