Monday, May 13, 2019

lordcloudx (digital/traditional illustrator) Open For Commissions!

Just quit my job today, so I'm opening up commissions for a while. I have plans to take the civil service exams as well as go for grad school. The full details are in the video above.

For now here's my portfolio and pricing. Special discount: Only $15 Instead of $20 for full body watercolor (colored pencils available too framed) or digital art for the first two customers. Payment is via PayPal. I work pretty fast. PM me for any other requests via twitter @violent_cloud or email me at lordcloudx at gmail. Click on the images for a bigger version.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Secretary of Death -- Visual Novel Review



You can download this visual novel for your PC at https://atpprojects.itch.io/sodeath

When a story about death turns out to be one of the most uplifting experiences you’ve had all week, then you just know that you’ve read a good one.
Today, let’s talk about a visual novel called “Secretary of Death” by ATP projects. Now let’s get one thing straight before we continue: mikey, the author, has always been a good friend of mine, but let me assure you that if that influenced this review at all – it wasn’t conscious on my part at least. Therefore, my conscience is clear.

So anyway, let’s start off with the premise of the story. Basically, Hiroaki, the first-person narrator of this story is literally, a secretary working for death – or one of many deaths. His boss, Aleksandra is a female “death” working within the jurisdiction of his town and it’s Hiroaki’s job to ensure that she stays on schedule everyday – you know, just like a normal secretary, except that his boss is death.

As you find out, Hiroaki and Aleksandra have a pretty chummy working relationship. They start off each day with some friendly jabs at each other and with Hiroaki preparing tea for the both of them. After that, they settle down to the actual work they do. Hiroaki handles the paper work and Aleksandra does the actual job of visiting those who have been fated to die and ensuring their deaths.

The Conflict

The main conflict in the story happens pretty early on when Hiroaki himself is fated to die, but somehow, he cheats death with some interference from Aleksandra. It is at this point when the first of some very sparsely-placed choices appear in the game and you either get a dead end, or you are allowed to continue the story depending on which actions you choose.
After avoiding his own death, several deaths appear to hunt Hiroaki down, but he manages to evade them thanks to his knowledge about how deaths work and with some help from Aleksandra who tells him to run away. The rest of the story is basically about Hiroaki avoiding death and him and Aleksandra coming to terms with what it is they really feel for each other.

A Simple Plot

From its presentation style using sparse, black and white graphics and absolutely zero sound effects nor even music, the Secretary of Death blatantly shouts “simple” from the very start – and the story is also quite simple and predictable – if you view it through the lens of a literary critic/as a fellow author. The story has no unpredictable twists and anyone genre-savvy enough could actually predict the main conflict that Hiroaki would be the next to die from a mile away.  

The final resolution is also as predictable as the entirety of the plot itself – but of course, this is not even a criticism. So many people think that predictable = bad, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. Secretary of Death is a good example of this. The plot is predictable, but it also resolves itself in a way that leaves you satisfied but while leaving a little bit of something left to the imagination. The characters live on beyond the final few screens of this tiny visual novel and leave you wondering: What will happen to them in the future?

Complex Characters

In contrast to the simplistic plot however, the two main characters of Secretary of Death are actually very complex, very human beings (despite one of them being not exactly human) in the way they are portrayed.

The narrator-protagonist, Hiroaki, has some dark sides to his personality while remaining an empathetic individual over-all. He has no qualms about taking the practical instead of the idealistic side of things in order to ensure his own survival, for example. Of course, he also thinks about idealistic choices every now and then, but his eventual “girlfriend” is at least there to be the voice of reason and to keep him grounded.

As for the co-main character, Aleksandra, while displaying some degree of that cute naiveté that one might expect from a female protagonist in a typical visual novel, the reader soon realizes that she actually does act in a way that you would expect a mature, adult individual would act when the situation calls for it. Her simple philosophy with regards to life and death is pragmatic – and almost cold, which is exactly what one would expect from someone whose job is to deal death on a daily basis.

Refreshingly Non-Sexual

Yes, Hiroaki actually does show some degree of attraction and even a desire to “make love” with Aleksandra eventually, but it is handled in an extremely tasteful manner that I can easily claim that the entirety of the story itself is actually refreshingly non-sexual. In fact, there is even very little  mention of how “attractive” Aleksandra might look through Hiroaki’s eyes to the point that he denies even “liking” her until he is basically pressured into revealing his true feelings by certain developments in the story.

It’s a very refreshing change from the high degree of sexual tension that we’ve often come to expect from light novels and visual novels in particular.


Logical Choices

The choices in this VN are extremely well thought out. Every action you take has its logical consequence. In my own playthrough, I actually ran into at least two different “bad ends” because I chose to play the game as myself and make the idealistic choice when I should have been more pragmatic. In this sense, the author’s own pragmatic personality actually shines through his work. As far as I’ve known mikey, he has always been a very level-headed person yet sincere person – and most importantly, it might take a nuclear missile in order to get this guy truly angry. I’ve witnessed him being annoyed at a few things in the past, but never to the point of actually losing his cool – and of course, if you ever come across an ATP projects VN, you should expect these types of no-nonsense choices. Don’t try to be the shounen hero in a mikey VN, you’ll definitely regret it.

At The End Of The Day, It’s A Love Story

I think that the main idea in the final chapter of this story summarizes exactly what this story is all about.

“It is in fact the story of her and me. Regardless of who we are, what we do, none of us really matters. But, to each other, we do.”

Therefore, everything that you’ve read so far just leads you up to these final few lines – when you reach this point, it’s like, “This is it. This is how it should be – and somehow, it feels just right.”

In conclusion, Secretary of Death is a deceptively off-putting, but over-all excellently written VN. It's not a visual novel that will "re-define" the genre, but it definitely shows you what the medium is capable if you are willing to give it a chance as a reader. I highly recommend it.


Wednesday, February 20, 2019

It's My Birthday Today!

And someone wrote me a poem. I just had to post it here for posterity~
Be it a writer or an artist,
There's so much depth in you,
When you post a story or a painting,
I learn something special and new.
Your art is simple yet unique,
You might call it being lazy,
But in truth, you're an efficient artist,
You make the hard look easy.
Your stories always inspire me
With the morals behind them,
You show us the truth but also give us hope
That there could be a solution to every problem.
Leaving the artist and the writer aside,
You're an interesting communicator,
Through the detailed account of your experiences,
You make a good educator.
You have a dark sense of humour,
Which I highly appreciate,
It teaches me to be more cautious,
To not be someone's bait.
I really love our conversations,
I feel like I can learn a lot,
Our discussions, short and long
Give me much food for thought.
Thank you for being my friend,
You're one among the few,
Who are always remarkable,
No matter what they do.
Happy Birthday to you,
You gained another year,
Enjoy it to the fullest


And shed many a happy tear.

Thank you very much to the person who wrote this! I'll treasure it, always.
Finished this piece just today. I call it "The Cute Girl of The Mountain" :D


Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Value of Art


Greetings, it’s lordcloudx once again. This week, I’d like to talk about art and perceptions of art – or rather, I’d like to hear/read your opinions on art and perceptions of art.

Now personally, I’ve already talked about my Philosophy of art in a previous video and I’ve written about how I think people perceive art and artists in general in an essay on my blog – which I really should turn into a video sometime soon.

So anyway, I’d like to share a pleasant experience that I had over dinner tonight. My mother and I were eating out at a Kenny Rogers and I was working on this particular watercolor piece with Nagi wearing a yukata while waiting for our food.

My mother pointed out that there was a little girl right on the table next to us who was trying to get a glimpse of what I was doing. Therefore, my mother took my watercolour pad and showed it to her and the little girl spontaneously said that “It’s nice, I like it.” My mother then proceeded to show her all the other pieces I had inside that watercolour pad and was genuinely happy to see my paintings.



Needless to say that it gave me a nice feeling to know that someone appreciated my art. I am not a commission artist and I’ve only ever done a single commission for a friend, so I definitely do not make any money off of my art. Furthermore, I’ve never had my works exhibited in a collection before and I’m antisocial, so I don’t really get much exposure as an artist.

However, these genuine reactions from strangers really make my day and they are the best types of reward for me – to know that someone appreciates my works with all sincerity – especially when it comes from a child who could not possibly have any ulterior motives to give me false praise.

So to the point of this video: I’d like to ask you, the viewer a two-fold question. First of all, how do you think the value of art is determined in objective reality and secondly, how do you believe the value of art should be determined ideally? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

This is lordcloudx out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Hayate Reflections: Happy Valentine's Day 2019! Digital Fanart


Hey, nobody ever said that I had to do Hayate Reflections on a weekly basis, right? Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day to everyone who loves someone out there -- whether it's your significant other, your waifu, your pet -- or yourself.

Here's the digital version of my Valentine's Day fanart which I did a watercolor version of earlier this week.

The choice of colors is actually pretty amusing. First of all, I went with the same colors as the original for their shirts like this.



Then I decided to change Hayate's shirt color and showed it to my friend, Roop -- who said that Hayate takes too much attention if he's wearing black... which was a pretty good point.



Therefore, I went with these colors for the final version. Yeah, that's right. If anyone is going to be taking up the viewer's attention, it sure shouldn't be mr. ex-debt-ridden butler boy. 

Anyway, that's it for now. This has been Hayate Reflections and this is lordcloudx out.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday, February 3, 2019

New Nagi Illustration by Hata and reason for my absence

So first of all, the reason for my absence: Well, there's been a lot of things going on with me IRL recently so yeah, you know how it goes. Other than that, the storm is now over, but I've also had this persistent cold for the last two weeks so it's been really draining my energy to do anything. Anyway, I might get back to the normal groove pretty soon and start blogging and Hayate Reflections again.

For now though, Hata drew a belated picture of Nagi for Twin Tails day in Japan and it's really beautiful. Have a look. Original post on twitter: https://twitter.com/hatakenjiro/status/1091979406883475456

Anyway, hope to see you soon. This is lordcloudx out.