Vanessa Foster’s account of a misguided youth, fleeing the FBI from Texas all the way to Alaska, is everything a great memoir should be. It’s a love-crazed and drug-twisted adventure where one mishap after another unravels her world until little remains, but a helpless wish for grace and a humbled reliance on the aid of culinary angels. It’s also a poetic search through the colorful, but frayed and fading pieces of a once hopeful reality. She gropes desperately for a thread of meaning while fumbling with her exhilarating lover in his schizophrenic downward spiral. With all hopes, dreams, family, and innocence seemingly lost, she is finally relented with a gift of grace, illuminated with spiritual truth, and crowned a woman. In losing almost everything, she gains something that is more.

Vanessa Foster delivers all the things we seek from a good story – escape, adventure, entertainment, spiritual retreat and self-discovery. And it’s all true.

As a wanna-be writer, I have to envy her. The book reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It’s not a similar story, but she’s similar in her ability to break all the rules of writing in eloquent service of honesty and poetic truth. Like McCarthy, she dismisses quotation marks from dialog in a way that makes the words of others somehow also her own – a technically challenging feat that paints every external scene with vivid emotions from her own mind – her own experience of each moment. In this, she enables us to feel what she felt and to see things as she saw them. We become her. We become who she was, and then we become with her as she changes into something new. Ultimately, we are left with the memory of an experience that might as well have been our own – complete with its hard-earned rewards, and yet all under the safety of our bedside reading lamp.

Today, finding a good book, much less a great one, is a difficult task; they are few and far between. But if you’re anything like me, I think you’ll find that Vanessa Foster’s More Than Everything is at least more than many.

Pink hearts

My sister tried to kill herself. Or, at least, I think she did.

I was eleven years old. I don’t remember much about it; it was a long time ago – kind of a blur at this point. The thing that sticks out is all the little pink hearts – speed pills. She’d swallowed a shit-load, then sprayed them all over the upholstery of the car with her vomit.

Mom rolled down the windows. The stench was bad.

I watched those little pills drip off the top of the car as we raced to the hospital to have her stomach pumped.

She was thirteen years old.

She survived it.

To this day, I don’t know why she did that.

I was too young to understand much, but it makes me wonder now.

What could have been so troublesome for her at that age? I don’t even recall her having a boyfriend at the time. She never did drugs before then. It’s not like we lived on skid row or anything – we were at my sweet grandmother’s house for Christ’s sake. Where in the hell does a thirteen year old girl find a bunch of speed?

Maybe they were just caffeine pills. Maybe it was just a ploy for attention or a cry for help. Maybe not.

I’ll never know.

Here are seven of the most important ZBrush brushes you’ll ever use. Begin your practice with these.

Brush Name

Standard Really great for things like the detail in an ear. Often overlooked! It’s a good brush. This brush is kind of like inflating an area and it is topology dependent. This is very good in its ALT or ZSub form for defining relatively soft inset detail (like shaping around the nostrils of a nose).

Smooth Don’t use early in the process (because it’s pointless). Start with a “design” phase and block-out form with clay-build up, other heavy tools, and move. Then instead of smooth, consider clay brush filling in or adding on rather than digging into the mesh with smooth.

Move Move surface areas (push and pull) to make quick and dramatic changes to the form. A typical sculpting workflow often begins with using the Move brush to create a basic form from sphere or base mesh.

Tip: If you’ve increased your subdivision level, it can help to step back down in the subdivision level to use the Move brush and then step it back up after the move. This ensures that the Move is making a more global change and is done in Tool > SubTool > Geometry (Divide and SDiv slider).

Tip: Try changing the Focal Shift (slider at the top of the UI) when using the Move Brush. A negative focal shift will make the surface that’s moved more bulbous and rounded. A positive focal shift will make the moved surface pointy.

Clay Add volume (but doesn’t build up a lot of height). This can be used for additive smoothing without removing detail from existing mesh.
ClayBuildup Add volume and can build upwards in height. (Try turning Alpha off for a big build-up that doesn’t have as crisp an edge; it’s the alpha that gives the ClayBuild up brush its square edge.) This brush is topology independent.

TrimDynamic Trim off the model in a planar sort of way; great for simplifying model while keeping key shape (makes it planar). It’s really easy in ZBrush to get too detailed too soon!

Dam_Standard For carving in details (like wrinkles); press alt for relatively sharp ridges. This brush often gives greater results for details because it’s a kind of pinch brush, which pulls geometry towards it as you dig in – resulting in cleaner topology around the area worked. This is not the case for something like the Standard brush. Often, however, if you’re not getting the clean detail you need, you may simply need to increase polygons using Tool > SubTool > Geometry > Divide.

Reference Resources

I derived this list of brushes by watching the following tutorial and listening to what the two commentators from FlippedNormals had to say about them as they worked.

Zbrush Sculpting Tutorial – White Walker from Game of Thrones HD