Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Eyes Like Chrome: the full interview

all artwork by Eyes Like Chrome
I've been a bit quiet here for the last week, mainly because of this. Suddenly I work in EVE media! The bar doesn't appear to be stratospherically high... Still, I'm quite happy with the interview; Eyes Like Chrome is a fascinating individual, bags of fun to talk to, and gave me any number of gems to pick out for the write-up.

From a 45-minute conversation, I had to cut quite a lot to get it down to a reasonable length. As a first pass, I typed up large chunks of what I thought was interesting from the conversation, and both Proto and Eyes Like Chrome have given me permission to publish the whole thing here. Read on for stories about twitch marathons, a stream stalker, furry porn, sibling rivalry, grand ambitions, streaming the newbie experience, and more...

Proto asked me to mention that he loves your work. He said, "you've got to check out her work, it's amazing", and I looked, and I was like, wow, that's really cool.

Thank you - I kind of think it's shit!

I don't know anything about art, I just know what I like.

That's how it is though, people that don't do a lot of it regularly, they don't catch the mistakes you do, they don't see whether or not things need to be fixed.

What's this whole deal with streaming, then?

It is very entertaining to watch people do stuff. I actually prefer the creative streams rather than the video gaming streams for that reason, but it's really funny to watch other people get angry and frustrated at the games!

Some of those streams are, like, twelve hours long!

Those are actually short streams. My legitimate commission streams last anywhere from six to... I think the longest one I did was close to 28 hours, non-stop. That's when I'm on a deadline and there's a reason for me rushing to finish the piece. None of the stuff I've done on twitch has been even remotely close to that - I tend to take my time on twitch, since I'm working with stuff I'm not familiar with.

Do any of your viewers stay with you for seven or twelve hours of streaming?

Yes, there are close to ten of them that never leave my streams, ever; there are people that will just open them up and leave them on a computer screen and wait for me to show up, and they're there the entire time, they never leave.

And, are they like, doing other things?

I'm assuming they do! There's one person that doesn't, because she's been my moderator from the beginning, she kind of got me started with the whole, "yeah, you should do this, and you should constantly stream it, because I like to watch you do art." They're actually really good to have in the stream, because they're able to help keep trolls away. They're very good about recognising when people are trying to scam me, they're very protective; I've become good friends with most of them, so it's good to have them around.

Do you get any trolling?

"Chromia Eyes"
I haven't had any of that on twitch yet, but I did have something on another streaming site that is kind of newer, and I think that's why the guy slipped through the cracks, and basically has been harassing me for the past couple of months - and he's very lewd with his harrassment. It basically got to the point that, because the streaming site refused to try and IP ban the guy and watch the stream and make sure he wasn't coming in there - because the mods couldn't do anything - we could ban him and ban him, and he was one of those guys who had bots that would recreate his account, and they couldn't stop him from doing it. So it got to the point where I had to go to another streaming site., it was that bad. I mean, I personally was amused by it, because he was pretty creative about the way he was trying to troll me, but I just didn't want him making my audience uncomfortable, which was what was happening. It's really hard to get a rise out of me. I'm the kind of person that, if I'm getting trolled, I will troll the person trolling me intentionally just to make them upset. But I didn't want him chasing away customers and people that had come just to chill out in the stream and watch art. It did suck, because it was a really nice art site; there were a lot of really amazing artists on there that I was really looking forward to doing art with, because you could actually multi-stream and draw alongside another artist... but I've found a new home that I like a lot better, it's a lot more secure, the mods actually give a crap. That's tigerdial, they're still in beta.

And that's where you do all the kinky furry stuff.

Whenever people find out that I do furry pornography on the side as an art profession, they get a little bit weirded out by it, because obviously, it's furry porn, I get that. What they don't seem to understand is, the furry community is based entirely upon artwork, it has always been based upon artwork, about making an artistic, animalistic version of themselves - and that's why it's really easy as an artist to get commissions that way, because if you draw that kind of thing, you're going to have repeat customers for the rest of eternity, because they always want more artwork of their creations. You just have to be open-minded, and think: ok, this may be some kind of crazy tentacle porn, but I can do artistic things with this and learn while I'm doing it, and not think about what I'm actually drawing.

So it's not really your thing, so much as a great way of getting experience and commissions?

That is true, I don't consider myself a furry, I have tons of friends that are, and I have been to conventions around them, and I love the furry community - they're very open-minded, they're very fun to be around, they're probably the most welcoming and open community I've ever met. I enjoy drawing the anthropomorphic stuff, specifically transformation scenes, I love doing that kind of stuff, because werewolf scenes were my big thing growing up, but it's not something that "gets my rocks off", no. I'm much more vanilla than that. (laughs) It's kind of how I got started with the commissions; the first three people that commissioned me were furries, and that's how I began to get good at what I was doing. Without them I would be nowhere near the art level I am.

Why did you choose the name "Eyes Like Chrome"?

Everything I have done up to this point has been practice. All of the commissions, everything I have done, has been for the sake of a comic that I have been writing for several years now, that I am desperate to get published - and the main character is a guy who has chrome eyes. It also comes from the fact that I am obsessed with drawing eyes - it is the thing that I am the best at, and I will spend hours just colouring eyes., if given the chance. I try to use really uncommon colours when I do shading and stuff like that, and I think it makes really eye-tricking effects... so that's my goal when I go into it, if I can make each set look differently, and make it go, oh, this is really cool-looking, I don't know what those colours are, but that's really cool-looking!

I don't even know if I have much of a style, because it varies from piece to piece, and it all just depends on the subject matter. Honestly, the chibi thing, I am not exclusively a chibi artist - chibi is the term for the small, cutesy, large-headed characters... originally I had done it on twitch because I like to draw, I want an excuse to do some art-based streams on twitch, I'll throw out some little thing for people to do if they are interested, because my big brother Fin had mentioned, people are really into EVE, they love having stuff about their characters - why not? So, then it turned into a big thing, so now I'm pretty sure that people have the misconception that they have to get a chibi - they don't. I will happily draw actual people; I do realism, I do all kinds of different styles, I'm not limited to one thing.

You spend a lot of time doing these.

The reason I spend so much time on them is because, one, I'm OCD, and I'm working with a lot of subject matter I'm not familiar with, I'm still new to EVE, so I don't know a lot of the ships and stuff yet, so I tend to spend a lot of time trying to make sure that I get the ships right. I'm not going to be 100% accurate in a limited time frame, but I want them to be recognisable; I don't want people to think, oh, it doesn't look like that, the nose does this, not that. And people that fly these ships all the time, they're going to know, they're going to notice, because that's their favourite ship.

It can't be a good hourly rate...

If you're going to be a freelance artist, especially one that's not well-known, doing your artwork by the hour is impossible, because people will not pay that. Most well-paid artists make anywhere from ten to twelve bucks an hour starting out, whenever they're actually well-known, and even they spend anywhere from eight to twelve hours. The big reason why my streams also seem to take a little bit longer is because I am working with an injured arm - I have actually torn the ligaments in my drawing hand, so I tend to go a little bit slower. My usual turnout rate for commissions was one to two a day, and it was anywhere from four to six hours a piece, but I had to cut that back a little bit, but hopefully that will be fixed soon.

You said earlier that you started to stream because there was a fan who said they loved to watch you work, but is there also something that appeals to you about having people watching you work?

I've noticed that I tend to draw better when I have an audience. I guess it's something I picked up in college, because I'd always have this herd of people around me watching me draw anyway. When I have people watching me draw, I have to not be lazy on things, I have to do them right the first time, I can't screw around, I can't cheat. But also, a lot of the people that watch the stream are artists themselves. Whether they're better than me or not, they're learning from things that I do, just as I learn from watching other art streams, and having them in the stream helps, because they can say hey, why don't you try this, it's easier to do it this way, or what about this hotkey; they have suggestions I wouldn't think of, and that's useful for an artist, because I think, oh, my brain doesn't work that way, that's excellent, I like it!

Is there anything about your style that is your style, rather than just the way you're doing that specific piece?

When I first started drawing, I was doing pixels, and mechanical things, like robots and spaceships and stuff. That's why, this EVE thing, I'm really stoked about doing it, because that's the thing that I love to draw, but it kind of changed into this anime, comic book style because that was the thing that all the people that wanted art from me are into. I guess the only thing that's signature of mine would probably be the way I draw eyes. Other than that, it changes, a lot, and I think it mostly just changes due to the subject matter. When I get into my comic book stuff, it tends to be more movement-based, where things will be more skewed, and their features will be more exaggerated. I try to change it up, because I get bored very easily if I do the same thing over and over again. I don't like to limit myself with a style.

CCP's EVE art is very noir, dark ambience, kind of gothic, hyper-detailed, cyberpunk techno-fantasy... if I compare that sort of art style with the kind of pieces you've been doing for these EVE commissions, there's quite a contrast.

Yeah, a lot of them are happier! It's like, ok, I kind of want to cuddle that ship. I don't know why I do, but I mean, it just kind of depends, if people want a chibi commission, they want something that they're going to look at and be like "aww, it's my character, how cute! It's like a baby! I'm going to keep it on my desk!" If it's a serious piece, I'll draw it seriously, and gritty, and the dark stuff. I actually love doing that kind of thing, by the way! I don't do nearly enough of it - that's why I love drawing Minmatar ships, because they're so gritty. I'm open to drawing anything. By doing the EVE stuff I think I'm going to be giving myself the chance to branch out of that a little bit more.

I used to do nothing but pixels - I never drew anything using a pencil or a stylus or anything, I did pixel by pixel in MS Paint, and that's basically what I started with. And then I thought, you know what? I don't have a computer any more, so I guess I'll start drawing.

To what extent was it that (pixel art & mechanical stuff) that made you want to do this? Or was it just your brother saying loads of people will pay you for commissions?

The whole EVE thing, I only recently got started in it. Fin is entirely responsible for all of that. I would never have touched EVE, I would never have bothered going into it, because it's pay-to-play - I tend to be really cheap! He and I live states away, and Fin's my best friend, he's literally the funnest person for me to be around - unlike other people, I don't have to stop being an asshole when I'm with Fin, he's just as much of one as I am. So it's easier to play games with him than with everybody else, because he can put up with my personality. I really wanted a way to play games with Fin again, because we're really far away, and he suggested EVE Online. I didn't know that he was a twitch-streaming partner and all that other stuff, so it was a bit of a surprise, I guess... I didn't realise you were a person watched by hundreds of people every time you stream... ok, cool, my brother's a celebrity. Odd.

So he kind of convinced me to try out EVE, and I did like it, I love space battles, I love anything involving spaceships and stuff like that, so I do enjoy it. It's kind of a handful to get used to, I'm still learning a lot, and I don't get to stream or play it nearly as much as I should, because I'm kind of swamped with commissions at the moment. I do love that genre of game, it was right up my alley, and within the first hour of me playing, he was like, "ok, you're gonna stream it." "Noo, I don't wanna stream it, they get to watch me fail and die, and the tutorial's going to murder me, and it's going to be terrible!"

But that's fun!

Clearly it must have been, because a lot of people were watching me do this, and it was terrifying, because I already have issues with playing a game while people watch. Art is different, it's something familiar that I can do and have people watch me and not freak out over. But playing a video game I've never touched before - it's kind of nerve-wracking.

What have you done in the game?

I've done a couple of fleets, which was fun, even though 90% of it was me trying to keep up, and I've done a few of the missions. I lost my first ship during Grand Theft Cruiser, because I didn't understand how to do the "go toward an object, run away from the object", so I died a horrible death, it was beautiful. This was Fin's group, he does this "teach people how to fly ships in a fleet" group, I think they're public fleets, but they're all just T1 frigates, and it's like "ok guys, come on, follow us, follow the leader, don't get left behind or you're going to die..."

Are you in a corp?

At the moment I'm not in a corp, just because I don't play enough yet, but I'm probably going to be joining Fin's whenever I finally get enough time to do that. I'm thinking about designating a couple of days a week where I'm able to just play and relax, and not kill my wrist, but we'll see.

You should totally stream that. I suspect that the devs often watch that kind of stream.

I was absolutely terrified when Fin told me exactly who these CCP people were, who were all flooding my chat and hanging around in the stream, and I was like, "oh god, now I have to watch what I say about this impossibly complicated game..." - because I tend to cuss a lot when I play video games, especially ones that I don't quite get, yet.

They're EVE devs, they've heard everything.

They've probably said everything. Despite how nervewracking it was, especially when Rise popped into my stream, and I looked like shit... but anyway, despite that, I'm really glad that they do that kind of thing, because I've never heard of a gaming group that does that, I mean, I've played a lot of MMOs, I've played a lot of various games, including, unfortunately, LoL and all that other stuff - the devs seem to have this barrier between the players and themselves in those games. I don't see that with EVE, and that makes me very, very happy. I think that that's how all games should be. That's kind of the other reason why I think I'm sticking with EVE, because they seem to actually give a crap about their players.

I remember the first time I tweeted to a dev, and they tweeted back to me, I was like, "oh my god, oh my god!"

"They know I exist!"

Have you seen the devblog about Super Kerr-Induced Nanocoatings?

I expected them to do that; I was surprised they hadn't done it already.

They were doing it on the basis that you had a skin, but when the ship was destroyed, the skin was gone; what they're now going to do is, you can buy a skin, and any time you fly that type of ship, it will look like that. So you don't lose it, it doesn't make the ship more expensive.

That's excellent - I like it!

Do you look forward to drawing a wider variety of different skin tones on ships?

I love the idea of doing that, because I love colouring things, and doing ship models sounds like a lot of fun! A pikachu ship, let's do this! ... They could make bumper stickers - really funny, witty bumper stickers, like puns. I'd like that.

How do you feel about pink spaceships?

It kind of seems like blasphemy, but I'll roll with it, if that's your thing.

I've heard whispered rumours that the art department is uncomfortable with the idea of even having alliance logos on ships, because they don't want players with their silly cartoons defacing their beautiful artwork.

I get that, the ships are their babies, they spend hours and hours and hours coming up with the designs, and the colouring, and the details, and doing all this stuff, but at the same time, people love looking unique, they love having their own style in everything they do, that's just what makes them people. They don't like to blend in, they want their own personalised things, so... I think, if it were me, I'd be flattered that people like the ship enough that they want to make it their own.

I love the way there's a story explaining how capsuleers are a bit crazy, and they kind of act like people playing a computer game.

Well, in that situation, wouldn't you be a little crazy? When you die, and then don't die?

Right, and wouldn't you paint your spaceships? I mean, if they could, they would.

If it were me, I would have a little stamp, a tally of how many times I've blown up: "I am THIS crazy."

If you could pick a ship for yourself in EVE, which ship would it be, and what colour would you choose for it?

Oh my goodness, that is a good question. I really, really like a lot of them. I love the design of the confessor, because it's beautiful, and it looks like a sword, and I like it because it transforms... and I love how shiny the Amarr ships are, they're so shiny and Paladin-y. I love white and gold together, that's my favourite colour combination, but... oh man, that's a really hard one. As for colours, I tend to like darker colour schemes, and things that have a lot of chrome on them, obviously. Like an anti-Amarr... it'd be black and silver, instead of white and gold.

So, a black-and-silver Confessor.

That would be badass.

What are your dreams or ambitions in EVE? Is there one special thing you'd love to do?

I do have a special thing that I'd love to do in EVE, and Fin's already well aware of it. My life's ambition is to stream-snipe him. It's kind of a thing that twitch runs into, and it's why they have a delay on twitch in most cases, so that they don't have players watching the stream and going, "aha, he's over here, I'm gonna go kill him on his stream so that people can make fun of him." But Fin, for example, actually made a game of him, where if you snipe him in the middle of his stream he will actually give you money for doing so. But it's not the money, it's the fact that it's Fin, and I have to kill him if he's in the same game as me.

How about art?

I would really like to get the comic I've been working on to be a thing. Originally it's going to be a web comic; I'm hoping to eventually print it if it does well enough. I'd love to get to the level where I can actually draw that and write that, and make it into something that people want to read and look at. That's my big goal.

How close are you?

I've been storyboarding; all of it is written out, for the most part, so far there are three arcs to the storyline, so it's going to be quite long when it's done, so I'm kind of scared of it at the same time, because that's a lot of work to do by yourself, but I have one other person that writes it with me, my co-writer Jess, who's kind of helping me to get another view on the characters, because there are so many of them, there are so many characters in this thing, and it's a lot of work. I'm at the point where I'm actually lining and colouring the prologue now. It's something I've been working on, probably since high school, so quite a few years, about ten years. I'm hoping to have probably the prologue up, and at least the first chapter, by the end of summer, that's my goal.

So now's the time to get your audience!

Hopefully this works! It is kind of space-y, and a little bit futuristic, it's very much not a happy story, so I hope that doesn't scare anybody away from it.

EVE people will be totally into that.

It's very steampunk-y, and apocalyptic, and very "oh, you think you know the plot? No you don't..."

I'll be reading it! I think a lot of EVE people will be as well, by the sound of it. How about your other ambitions in life?

I do want to write; I'm actually better at writing than I am at drawing, that's kind of my big thing. I do want to write a book, or two, or ten.

Have you tried writing EVE fiction?

No, because I don't know enough about the lore yet, but I'm actually writing and drawing a new capsuleer's journey as a comic, it's going to be very minimally coloured, and it's probably going to be sporadic because I don't play that much, but it's going to go through my player character's journey. It's going to be very graphic-novelly in design. It's not even going to have a lot of text, it's going to be mostly based on trying to move the story through just images and panelling.

We'll definitely want to see that! We love your work.

Don't make me cry on the interview!

If you do, that would be awesome, and we'll put that on the podcast.


That's the kind of thing we want to highlight, because that makes the game a richer, more meaningful experience for all of us.

Yes, that was something that Fin mentioned as well, he really wanted to see more of that, and I agree, I feel like, you want players to stick with it more, and to have more reason to love EVE, so make the player community richer, and they will do that.

It's got to be really good for me to pay to play, so the fact that I'm sticking with it shows you how much I like it. I think the big reason I have become hooked on it is because all the people I watch and play with are so unbelievably gung-ho about the game, and that kind of makes me want to be gung-ho about it. It isn't even a peer pressure thing, it's more of a "oh gee, that sounds like fun."

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