Composer, Arranger

Level Design (Drawing)

      In the previous blog entry, I mentioned that my segue into writing music began with drawing. As a kid I would draw all kinds of random things. I made my own trading card games, drew books of mazes, designed custom and funky looking instruments (some quiet Dr. Seussian in a way but in my own style),  and designed video game levels after my favorite video games. The connection may not make immediate sense right away, but allow me to make some connections. 

     If I'm not mistaken, in 3rd grade I made a highly accurate copy of a photo of a caracal. If you don't know what a caracal is, please google it. It's a very cool looking wild cat that has interesting shaped ears. It somewhat looks like a house cat that would achieve some (cartoon-like) evolutionary power-up. I remember my classmates being amazed at the detail since I was pretty good at drawing things right next to me. The trickiest part for me when it came to drawings was always getting proportions right, since I've never done anything like line art. I would just copy things raw. I remember some classmates claiming i traced the picture, which didn't makes sense because I changed the scale, so I drew a second in front of the entire class-- or so that's how I remember it. 

     My drawing is always either good or bad. One day I might describe my gifted program audition which I tanked pretty poorly. I wasn't wise enough to realize how bad of a job I did. 

     In elementary school, I designed these short books of mazes titled "Venom." I remember this distinctly because I used to draw the head of a cobra on the cover with venom dripping from the fangs. There was probably a 2nd and 3rd iteration but I would never commit to finishing anything. I would get 4-5 levels deep, each being a page or two and eventually get wrapped up into "real-life" things or academics and forget what i was doing. These mazes required you to grab collectibles, find keys to open certain doors, avoid enemies and other things of the sort. I no longer have those notebooks. Even today, this is a very bad problem and one of the many reasons why I have started this blog: Accountability and encouragement. You'll here this time and time again:

      I GREATLY enjoy conception and early design work, but I get burnt out and tend to want to rush the rest of the creative process.

With that sad, I used to design 3d sketches of additional levels to my favorite video games. I recall my family describing my obsession with Sonic The Hedgehog 2. I would draw him like crazy, design levels (which is quite easy in 2-dimensions) and stages. I drew 3d Super Mario 64 levels, imagining at the time, what if this game had a level editor? What cool motifs or concepts could I come up with on my own? Many of these looked quite nice. I remember one level in particular in which you had to canon blast your way across a level to transverse floating islands in the sky. Other favorites featured Banjo Kazooie (I was obsessed with music note placements in the levels), and of course Starfox 64. I actually made a 2-d scrolling shooter pc video game version of the latter at some point since I was so obsessed with its design. Naturally, I'll admit now that Starfox in particular sometimes sneaks into my music. Even something like Temper, Sigh, Release holds some subconscious flavorings inspired from the game. 

     I think I always had a notebook that was used solely for drawing. I was picky about my paper too. I would never write or draw without a certain amount of stacked sheets of paper. 1 sheet of paper looks dull while drawing on 10 or an entire notebook made the lines pop quite vibrantly over the bright, white sheets of paper. 

The underlying motif: Design and conception is quite fun. Let your imagination run wild.  

Thomas Joseph