Ravenswood

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Jim Lehmann a.k.a. "Ravenswood" or "Ravenswd", is a smiley-artist/emoticonist from Chicago, Illinois. He is a computer programmer by profession.


History

Jim began programming when he was 11 years old after his mother bought him an Apple II computer. It was during that period, when most computer graphics were pixellated, that he gained a love for ASCII emoticons[1] and pixel fonts. After the advent of pixelled smileys, he dabbled in creating them, but it wasn’t until after marrying his wife, artist Mirz123, that he began doing more serious smiley creations.


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Ravenswood Forums

Ravenswood’s beginning in the smiley world was most prominent in his development of a forum system for his wife’s various websites. Ravenswoods Forums (also known as RWF) was billed as an “icon-enhanced message board system.”[2] Modelled after many message board systems popular in the late 1990s, the forum system displayed messages in a tree format, with each new entry being “bulleted” with a smiley so that users could convey the theme or mood of the message in a graphical manner. The system was developed over a period of 10 years, with continual enhancements made so that users could more easily utilize smileys and graphics in their messages. Eventually, with more sites moving to second-generation forum programs, Ravenswood stopped work on the project and began developing a similar interface building off the Phorum Open-Source forum system. This new system is being used today on various websites and Ravenswood continues development of same, keeping the emphasis on smiley-friendly functionality.

During his time working on Ravenswood Forums, Jim developed many other utilities to help users access and view smileys. In addition, he began his first works in generator programs which would allow users to create graphics on-the-fly for use on forums and websites. He continues to work on similar projects, most notably joining with smiley-artist Laie, in development of an updated version of Laie’s Spray Paint Generator.


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Smileys and Comics

Throughout the years, Ravenswood has made various smileys, mostly for his personal use. However, due to work and time constraints, he never had sufficient time to expand his pixelling skills. Instead, he used his spare time to foray into another area he was interested in: webcomics. In 2007, it was that love which led him to join with Mirz123 and start a webcomic featuring smileys as the main characters. Bitmap World is the first full-length, regularly updated emoticomic, and has been running for over 3 years. It was through work on the comic that Ravenswood began refining his skills and making more complex smileys. It is also work on that site which piqued his interest in merging smileys and technology.


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Creating Smileys

Ravenswood’s program of choice to create smileys is MS Paint. While many feel the program is archaic and inferior, Ravenswood feels it is perfect for pixelling emoticons and other small art pieces. In recent years, he has begun using Paint Shop Pro for more advanced graphics and Animation Shop for animating. Desiring to create more complex animations and effects (and meeting with the limitations of more conventional graphics programs), in 2009, Ravenswood began programming his own graphics package, Gif Monkey. Ravenswood has used that package to collaborate with his wife on several numerous high-end smiley pieces. Jim’s hopes are to continue developing the package for possible release to the general public.


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Smiley Options

Aside from the work showcased on his various sites, Ravenswood maintains a gallery on the art-site, deviantART. While his collection of independent work is still small, it is impressive nonetheless, featuring many technically complex and stand-out pieces.


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The Future

Ravenswood hopes to continue his smiley-making as long as his computer will let him. As a programmer/artist, the main thing that appeals to him is finding new and unusual ways to create digital art. To that end, he plans to continue developing utilities that will allow users to create, manage, and view smiley-art more easily.

Ravenswood’s Web Presence

Aside from his deviantART gallery and webcomic, Ravenswood’s coding work can be found on his portfolio site, Scriptmonkeys.us and on his generator work on SmileyStuff.us.

Notes and References

  • Personal Interview (May 2010)
  • Ravenswood deviantART page (May 2010)

Footnotes

  1. ^ In the days before graphical/pixellated smileys, ASCII (i.e. text-based) emoticons were widely used. An example is the happy face —> :) Today, such symbols are still used, but most-times automatically converted by various programs to depict a graphic.
  2. ^ In early computing, the term “emoticons” referred to text-based smileys. The traditional round pixellated smileys were most-often referred to as “icons”. With the advent of pixellated smileys and more wide usage, the term “icon” was dropped–though some older computer users still utilize that term to refer to smileys.
Article Information
Author: Mirz123
Date Published: Article has not been published yet
Other Contributors: BradLee
Last Modified: August 19, 2015

*** This article has been approved by the referenced artist ***
*** Originally written for Smileystuff.us, although portions may have been changed since ***