Ask a Master: Jafo Of All Trades

Drawing lessons after the article

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 by PoSmedley | Discussion: Community



So, in taking this little feature over from Zubaz , I started thinking I bit off more than I could chew.  The hardest part was deciding who to start with. The ‘newest’, the ‘oldest’, the ‘first one that would agree to it’.  It was in the midst of asking a certain person for some advice on the matter that it occurred to me I was already speaking to the perfect choice.

I had this big long introduction but scratched it. For one, the interview ran long. Secondly, all I want to say is I am proud to know him and honored he consented to being my first victim interview. Hopefully, everything else you ever wanted to know about Jafo, you will find in the following.

Jafo aka Paul Martin

Jafo The Noob

I see on your profile that you’re user number is 23. How long was Wincustomize up before you joined and what took you so long?

It [the site] was not formally released ... was still effectively at beta stage and several of us were prompted to login and see if it was working 'right'.

When you first joined, how did you personally participate and interact with the community?

That's an odd one, because really I joined the skinning community before the advent of Wincustomize, joining mainstream 'skinning' via

For quite a long time I 'lurked', getting to know what it was all about [as much as anyone else knew at the time] so when I ventured to make some input I wouldn't appear a total klutz.

[I think I fooled them].

Jafo The Skinner

Did you have aspirations to be a skinner?

I still do...

I had been messing with my OS well before Windows, even hex-edited the logging screen to XTGold [a DOS proggy] to include my name and details. Then there was 'Gorin Desktop' a Graphical 'shell' for DOS - that would have been about '94 or so, as I moved on to Win 3.11 and eventually 95.

What was your first skin/work posted to the gallery?

To Wincustomize? Probably an 'oversize' Litestep Shell theme [some of mine were huge]. T-Man had hijacked me by then to test the upload function/s on the site.

There are rumours that you had your hand in the early works of a few skinners.

Quite a few people, here and at Devart approached me to do those [darn] region transparencies for Winamp, and there was a lot of 'swapping' of a thing called a 'step.rc' [textual coding] for Litestep.

Did I hear right, that you actually taught someone how to draw… to render a certain part of the female anatomy?

Er, yes... I compared notes with Helder [Nuvem] re getting [the drawing of] a female breast 'exactly' right. I'd drawn one or two in my time, starting with Life Drawing classes in Architecture in 1972.

And what is this about you having a hand in some of the first ‘minimalist’ skins?

'Minimalist' skins these days usually refer to minimal differences from the original style/function/setup. Back in 'the day' 'minimalist' meant 'less of'. I'd find ways to leave off more than what I'd put in... which made my particular style of Winamp skins look so odd. The same went for my Windowblinds skins [and other skinnables]. I'd reduce the frame sizes [thicknesses] to next to zero...and really wanted the title bar to just be the title and the buttons...with no bar ...but that proved to be beyond Windowblinds [which was WB 2 by about then].

What is your favorite Windowblind?

Probably Antares [by treetog]. I had since ported Renato's WB to Winamp, Sysmetrix and naturally made several Litestep shells with his graphics.


Back in those DOS days I used to do icons...horrid things limited by a crappy 16 colour palette, but once I'd got into Litestep all that icon use was essentially dead and gone. Most of the better Litestep shells did not rely on or use icons at all.

These days I really never seem to bother with icon changing at all, though I do use my own cursors.

*any other skin?

I'm kinda attached to my own WinAMP 2.9x skin "Really Blame Maxim"... for two reasons. Firstly it was derived from my very first Winamp skin that dates back to 1999 or so, going through essentially per pixel development to the present, with what was originally hand-coded transparency co-ordinates that were a serious pain in the bum to do.....there are thousands of them. That leads to the second reason.... a guy called 'Maxim' used my method of setting the co-ordinates...and coded a proggy so now anyone can do what took me forever to the click of a button [or two].

 I once emailed you about wallpapers for some advice. Would you share your favorite wallpaper here with everyone else?

Ah....that's an easy one...always been the same answer... "Ensnare" by Shadowness [it's in the WC gallery...has been since 2001]. It's dark, a little sci-fi, and has a pretty girl in it. [it also works just fine as a wall should].

Jafo The Master

When did you first notice or feel you were on your way to becoming more than just a member of the site and were the promotions levels in place at the time?

People actually listened to me [a bit].

Probably in 2001, when T-Man emailed me that the Admins [then] had decided to promote me to 'Master'.

Yes, they were in place then...and had been from essentially the outset. It was our founder's [Frogboy] opinion that as with Real Life [tm] not everyone is 'equal' when it comes to involvement/participation/experience/reputation, etc., so the User Levels were set as a way to distinguish the more experienced/qualified from the casual User.

How did you progress from member to Master?

Bribery and extortion.

I showed [or fooled them with] a dedication to skinners, skinning, and the site itself. I had long recognised skinning to be a new 'artform' and one which we all [then] were privileged to be at the birth of. That's something a lot of artists hung in galleries around the world cannot boast of.

Promotions then, as now, were typically sequential. Many of us were 'started' here at Journeyman level [our histories at served that], then moved up.

In my case, to Master, then to Wizop [Moderator], and eventually 'Admin'.

What for you is the greatest reward about being a Master?

Probably just the same thing as any other Master, and that is Community recognition/appreciation for his/her contribution to skinning.

Of course, the Commercial opportunity Masters now have was not in place when I was promoted.... and I don't have any real interest in wanting to sell any skins of my making.... probably because no-one would likely buy them...and I'd look a wee bit silly.

Jafo The Admin

As you progressed, did you mature or grow into the role or were your convictions already in place?

Probably in place. The only thing that developed over time was learning how it is useless to tilt at windmills. Handling what is often day-to-day silliness takes a bit of practice, but Frogboy was [is] a great educator in that regard. He often deals with more weirdness in a day than I'd get in a week.

I see you in the WC forums, on IRC, and on Impulse…sometimes all at the same time. How do you do it?

Cloning...I'm really Dolly the sheep.

I'm self-employed [Architect] so can choose when I'm 'on' or not, though often it can be the better part of 16 hours in a day. In real terms it'll average to about 4 or 5, 7 days a week, 52 weeks, etc. The computer never sleeps...and I don't a great deal, either.

Now, the big question…what do you do here? What is your role on Wincustomize?

I have a 'title' - Community Manager. I look after 'everyone' at Wincustomize, from the casual member to the site's Moderators, and along with them and my alter-ego in the US, Island Dog we all help keep Wincustomize's community of skinners and skin users happy.


What is the hardest part about being an Admin?

Balancing egos....or nurturing them. Deciding when 'that thread really should be closed down', weighing the pros and the cons of so doing. Removing people from the site.

What is the best part?

Promoting people. Repaying a member's devotion/contribution to the site's community with something almost tangible. I know how people can enjoy the step up....I remember my own quite well.

Jafo On Wincustomize

Let’s talk words for a minute. On the Wincustomize Mission Statement page, one word stands out for me. It’s the mention of a ‘covenant’. For anyone that may look at WC as just a website, could you explain in your own unique way what a covenant is?

Covenant is a 'binding' agreement written as a condition of or for something. I know the meaning simply because they occur in Property Titles. Land can have a 'covenant' imposed upon its use preventing, say, flat/unit development.

Did you know that the English word ‘covenant’ means ‘a coming together’?

As in 'agreement', yes.

How important is it (the covenant) to the running of WC?

Probably more important than the keeping up-to-date of the 'About' page. I can't recall it ever accurately reflecting just who was where and doing what. The Admin list didn't have me on it for several years...and it looks like Spencer will have a few more months to wait at least. I believe the next version of Wincustomize will allow easy rewrites/ corrections/ updates to all such pages. The Covenant itself is important but perhaps there are levels of involvement [users] who are afforded perhaps too much leeway [rope], as often people do not abide by the site's rules of good conduct as well as they might, and that we [the community] would like them to.

How much rope is given is always going to be a knotty problem [pun].

How important is ‘community’ to WC?

About as important as it can get. Without a Community Wincustomize would be closed down. Totally. Stardock has stated on many occasions that their skinning products could be serviced by third party sites [and communities] just as most other similar companies leave it all to external sites. Fortunately for us all, this isnot a business run by a's a community site owned and run by people who are devoted to skinning and/or are skinners themselves.

What do you look for when you consider anyone for any type of promotion?

Suggestions from the Mods that don't raise red flag warning signs in my mind for some prior horrendous deed. I tend to see a lot of the interaction between people on the site and in the early days of the site's 'growing pains' used to keep an 'idiot sheet' of nicks-I-have-known for some abusive comment or other.

Typically, if a suggested person had avoided that sheet all was well.

Promotions to Journeyman, because they can upload directly to the gallery, and then Master with the ability to sell skins, must create some pretty serious discussions among the Admins.

Journeymen, not really. It is expected that by the time a site member has achieved Journeyman he/she can be trusted to understand what is acceptable content and/or whether an upload may be an IP issue or not.

Master level was originally simply yet another rung on the ladder. Now it entails slightly more consideration as there is the opportunity for selling skins on Wincustomize. This becomes also important to the Commercial end of Stardock as it is they who must set the functionality in place. It becomes contractual rather than [previously] free and voluntary.

What is the first thing you look at when you consider someone for Master?

Simply more of what went each previous level step. It is expected that a Master [when it comes to skinning, this Community and this site] is an even 'better person' than those 'down' the ranks who are yet to prove themselves.

It probably sounds incredibly idealistic, and if truth be known it is often demonstrated to be unrealistic. The skinning industry/community is NOT a gathering of like-minded is more accurately a gathering of disparate individuals who share [parts of] a common interest.

Masters ultimately won't all be as 'nice' as you would want them to be, simply because we as people are all so different. Imposing one's values or standards upon another is fraught with danger, but at the same time we [the total Skinning Community] would hope that the seniors of our craft could be respected BOTH for their art AND for their personality.

What is your favorite aspect of WC?

The people. They are a great bunch.... you are a great bunch.

What is your least favorite, if you have one?

Chasing issues of IP. Skin ripping has been around since the dawn of the art.

Jafo And The Incident

A while back, or a few while backs, you and I have had our difference of opinions.

You were a putz.

To ‘make my point’ I took a pretty cheap shot at you with a bootskin.

You 'borrowed' an image of mine which was thus my IP [Intellectual Property] and altered it to make a pointed statement against me which also collaterally and negatively impacted upon Wincustomize.

Why didn’t you ban me?

I was in a position to have the work/s removed from any of the sites it was uploaded to [which I did] and, combined with the 'request' to not repeat it the situation was resolved.

Without a ban.

Banning as such is a last resort, if/when all else fails.

If you had it do over, would you ban me?


In fact, I later found out that you were instrumental in my first promotion. You must have known that would make me feel like an even bigger heel?

Yes, but how you felt was outside my control. I simply thought your promotion was due.

Was what I did the worst thing anyone has ever pulled or done when it came to disagreeing with you on the site?

No. I have been 'formally complained against' on two or three occasions [pretty good batting average for all these years]. The worst 'situation' was the time a certain person decided to spam the forums with some significantly foul threads that were aimed at a specific member. Fortunately I found [sheer luck] the Forums' "off button" and killed the site while I contacted Frogboy and between us we cleaned up the mess

Meet Paul

You are infamous for pointing out grammatical and spelling errors in the forums. Were you ever a teacher?

'Infamous', yes. I originally started that on a way of popping in to say 'something'.... people got to notice I became Da Spel Chekka [and other such corruptions]. By the time I was a site Admin it was suggested that it would be a more 'friendly' atmosphere here without administrator 'corrections', so I moved on.

Do you correct your wife? (children?)

No children, and no. [that's why I'm still married [and alive] 27 years later].

How many mistakes have you found in my questionare so far? (I purposely left spell check off when I typed this)

A few, but I don't typically correct them, as mentioned. [I'll have a few, too ... and not all AUS-English vs US-English]

Outside of Wincustomize and all you do here, what gives you the greatest pleasure?

Greatest...nothing in particular...just life in general. Most of it isn't all that bad.

What do you do to relax?

Bike riding, watching telly...and when I feel the need for more stress and responsibility ... Motor Racing Official. I do the F1 Grands Prix, MotoGPs and World Superbikes in particular.

How was your recent trip to the states and to Stardock?

Most enjoyable, but too short, but as Arnie said 'I'll be baaaack'.

Were there any surprises or was it all as you expected?

Brad's house...that was brilliant, particularly as I'd missed the 'memo' that he was even building one.

The groundhog out the back of SD HQ.

The groundhog out the back of SD HQ.

The groundhog out the back of SD HQ.

What would surprise everyone the most about you?

That's a good one. I really think that's a question for 'everyone', not me.

Lightning Round

Bryce or Photoshop??

PaintShop Pro....and definitely NOT Bryce.

Victoria Bitters or Tooheys New?

Coopers Sparkling. VB tastes like the can it comes out of...and Tooheys is the wrong state.

I had the distinct pleasure of seeing an episode of Paul Hogan's old TV show where most of the episode was spent bashing Benny Hill. Paul Hogan or Benny Hill?

Hoges. Some of his stuff was inspired....much like Eric Bana [he was stand-up and TV comedy before Hollywood]

Nicole Kidman or Toni Collette?

Nicole...though Kylie [Minogue] is my fave...and I'd met her some years ago.

Russell Crowe or Mel Gibson?

Hard one...I liked Romper Stomper, and Mad I'd call it evens.

Morning Person or Night Owl?

Night Owl...mornings are like Mondays...I don't like either.

Should they remake ‘Road Warrior’ and should they really put a woman in the lead?

No, and No.

The original was local to me [a close friend was offered a % of the box in lieu of a wage...she said 'no', needing the she's missed out on 3 date]

Is ‘The Breakfast Club’ really the cult phenomenon I have heard it is in Australia?


What is ‘thrashless metal’?

Ah, my idea of 'metal' is probably better termed as heavy rock. Thrash metal is typically too fast a tempo and simply cacophonous.

Favorite curse word?


I have this email that restricts me from ever using an image or quoting a certain admin/Master. Any chance of ever getting that lifted?

Consider it lifted, subject to the law of International Copyright, ergo you seek and obtain specific consent for its use.

Any final words?

...11 bloody pages.

Oh, well.

First Previous Page 2 of 3 Next Last
Reply #21 Thursday, November 12, 2009 7:49 AM

Great interview!

Reply #22 Thursday, November 12, 2009 8:30 AM

A pleasure to read and learn some facts and about people. Good interview PO.

Reply #23 Thursday, November 12, 2009 9:07 AM

Great interview.  Thanks for picking this up Po'

Reply #24 Thursday, November 12, 2009 9:08 AM

Nice read, even after 8 years I learned a few things.

Reply #25 Thursday, November 12, 2009 9:29 AM

Great work Po!

Good subject choice too

Reply #26 Thursday, November 12, 2009 11:29 AM

Great interview Po !!

Reply #27 Thursday, November 12, 2009 11:32 AM

Great job guys! 

Reply #28 Thursday, November 12, 2009 11:36 AM

Very interesting and enlightening read! Po, good job, and Jafo, I feel like I know you....   

Island Dog
Reply #29 Thursday, November 12, 2009 12:34 PM

Reply #30 Thursday, November 12, 2009 12:39 PM
Proper job.
Reply #31 Thursday, November 12, 2009 12:50 PM


Reply #32 Thursday, November 12, 2009 1:06 PM

One of the most enjoyable reads I've ever had at this site. Interesting questions and even more interesting answers. I just love this "inside information" stuff.   Jafo,a short nick with a long history. Well done by both parties. I can't wait to see who Po "roasts" next.

One question: What has that groundhog done with the geese?

Reply #33 Thursday, November 12, 2009 1:19 PM

Normally I wouldn't stop to read a post like this but it was well done and interesting.

Reply #34 Thursday, November 12, 2009 1:25 PM

Yes, it was a very good and well thought out interview.   

Now, how are you going to do on you second interview?   

Reply #35 Thursday, November 12, 2009 3:01 PM

Masterfully done, both of you!  A little bit of pleasantness in my day to read this.  Thank you.

Reply #36 Thursday, November 12, 2009 4:09 PM

I enjoyed that, thank you both.

Reply #37 Thursday, November 12, 2009 4:54 PM

Nice job Po.  Thanks for taking up the gauntlet on this project.

Reply #38 Thursday, November 12, 2009 7:24 PM


Thank you. Everyone. This is all some pretty amazing feedback.

It's support and participation (from Jafo to all who have commented) like this that makes this such a great community.

Reply #39 Thursday, November 12, 2009 7:40 PM


Thank you. Everyone. This is all some pretty amazing feedback.

It's support and participation (from Jafo to all who have commented) like this that makes this such a great community.

That sounded exactly how House would have said it.  Just saying. 

Reply #40 Thursday, November 12, 2009 8:09 PM

That sounded exactly how House would have said it.


No, no. House would have said this...

"I saw something amazing. Pure truth. Now somebody owes me half a lap dance."

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