Borobo Reef

I had planned to have finished the first draft of the next book by the 30th of March. To this end, I pulled out all the stops. I was writing day and night, lunch time, after dinner, before going to bed and even while sleeping.

All that hard work paid off – I did it! Not only did I hit my target, I managed to get it done days earlier than anticipated. That, like, never happens. And it’s got me worried.

Why worry?

You see, getting something done quickly is great, unless it’s done so hastily that stuff goes missing or gets overlooked or gets done sloppily.

I’m not really worried, not like that. It’s more that I’m going to stay on my toes during the second draft, keeping an eye out for anything glaringly obvious.

When’s that due? Glad you asked. 25th of April is the deadline for that. So I’m going at that hammer and tongs, right?
Wrong.

The Cover

Instead of going straight into the second draft, I’m going to let my reading / writing brain have a rest and get cracking on the cover. That’s right, rather than put the cover off until the end, I’m going to use the down time to do some creative drawing.

My Wacom pad has been lonely.

TedrickCombine.jpg

So I started with a sketch of an octopus, the protagonist of my story, a spud named Tedrick Gritswell. After some scruffy sketches, I used the watercolour to get some feel for how he would look, and once that got somewhere close to what I was after, I added a layer and dropped in a background.

Corel Painter has some neat features like layering, lighting and texturing so I mucked about with that so see what I could use. After all, my spud ain’t smooth, he’s got skin. Plus there’s shading to be done and depth of field and all of that.

At the time of writing, I’m still working on the coral cliffs in the background and getting some rocks and shells and other plants in there, along with cleaning up the water and adding some details, but here tis:Tedrick6.jpg

I’ll keep at it for the next few days while I chill out my brain, you know, maybe get out and make a petrol station for Joey like he’s been bugging me. Fresh air and exercise, that’s what I need.

If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.

Huh? Why is he missing an arm? I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait until the book is out to find out.Mini Jeztyr Logo

The Black Knight

The other day Rebecca handed me a piece of board and told me to get creative.

Yesterday I handed it back to her:

Word to the wise: the vinyl backing glue ain’t the best for sticking tiles to tiles. I did have to use a bit of craft glue to keep the pieces on. Also, don’t get your pinkies in the way of the scalpel. Goes without saying, I know, but, you know… don’t.

The slate and marble tiles lend themselves nicely to a moody, Halloween kind of look, but nothing says you can’t get a little creative and apply daubs of paint here and there to bring it up. Eh, go on! Get down to the hardware store and pick up some lino!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Presenting – Grosvenor Lane Ghost

Wow! I’m bushed.

I thoroughly gave a Synfig, Audacity, Anvil Studio, Gimp, Corel and good ol’ Microsoft Movie Maker a workout.

I haven’t got a lot to say except that the promotional animation for Grosvenor Lane Ghost is now up on You Tube and Daily Motion (hehehe… Daily Motion. You know, like, one’s daily constitutional?) and any other place that I can find.

Please share, enjoy and criticise. Don’t worry, I won’t be listening, I’ll be sleeping. Right now it’s a warm Milo and off to bed.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Thank you… You’re Wacom.

One of my biggest bugbears when it comes to digitizing pencil scratchings is that I have to do my sketching on paper, get my phone out, take a photo – with a black piece of paper underneath to hide the stuff on the other side – then transfer that via bluetooth to my machine, process it through Gimp to get rid of the noise and stuff, despeckle, desaturate and use the threshold command to get the ‘black and white’ levels, mask one over the over to retain the gradient of the pencil or pen, and, finally, use my clumsy mouse for shading and colouring.

Ouch.

I’ve been drawing with a mouse since the old 286, and it’s fine and fair enough for this and that but, really, what I’ve been after is a way to draw / sketch / paint directly into the machine.

Intuous Art by Wacom

There I was, at Officeworks, looking for a present, when I saw this little puppy looking at me with sad eyes:

cth490k_galleryimage_1_600x600_emea.jpgI thought, “Nah. Nahhhhh.”

I did a skip around the store, found the present and was about to leave. I looked back. It was still there. “Take me home,” it said, not forcefully, not appealingly, just sagely.

“Take me home. Use me. I’m what you’ve been looking for.”

I have an old (ooooold) Wacom pen and tablet thing. As a pointing device, it was great. As a drawing tool, no good. Naturally I was skeptical about this one. But times change, technology improves, things get better, kinks get ironed out.

I thought, “OK.”

The rest is history. And, I have to say, it’s awesome. It came with a Corel painting software with which it integrates perfectly. It responds to finger pinching, so I can move the virtual ‘paper’ around, or zoom in and out, without having to leave the pad.

But the really cool thing is that it’s pressure sensitive, so if I want to make light strokes, the corresponding lines are light. Push down and make darker, stronger strokes. The result is a very natural looking stroke for pens and pencils, even watercolours, oils and acrylics.

Blending and shading, as you can imagine, comes out tops. In Gimp, it’s not so great because it doesn’t respect the pressure sensitivity, but pop the picture into Corel and it’s like liquid. I can shade gently, I can shade hard, I can smear this bit, scratch that bit, and even layer it all.

Needless to say, I’m going to be spending some time with this little pooch to make the artwork for Grosvenor Lane Ghost. My pictures will have a lot of chiaroscuro, contrasting light and dark, so I’ll be working on shadows and shines a lot, lanterns, old fireplaces, that sort of thing.

What do you know? I haven’t been excited by technology for a while.

On a side note, I’ve found that this is pretty cool for my little Boy as well: I showed him how to paint with it, how to change the colours and make shapes and things. He’s still getting the hang of it, of course, he hasn’t actually mastered holding a pen properly, but he loves how Daddy can draw him a dragon or a car or a train or a tree or a face or a cat, and he can ‘colour them in’.

Bugger. Can’t stick it on the fridge.Mini Jeztyr Logo

Easter Eggs -Triumphs and Failures

Running with the purple and gold theme, I made up a few more eggs and painted them blue, graduating to white at the bottom. Then came the white vine squiggles, with round balls on the ends of white flicks.

Finally, the balls were filled with white, gold and rose gold, just to mix things up again. Gloss up with several coats of polyurethane and we’re ready for Easter.

Easter Eggs 2016 the rest.jpg

Almost.

There are two big rules that go with making Easter Eggs.

  1. Always make more eggs than you will need and
  2. Never let little boys with curious fingers anywhere near your eggs otherwise:

BrokenEgg.jpg

This guy was only three coats of gloss away from finished! Oh, the humanity!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Easter Eggs – 2016

Easter caught me by surprise this year. Had grand plans to have everything prepped and ready, then I looked down for a second. Boom! It’s the 21st of March. How did that happen without anyone noticing?

The theme this year: Colours. Purple and gold, white and black. I also made some blue eggs, just to mix it up a little. There are a few ‘experimental’ designs, good to keep in the back of my mind for another time. I settled on the white, organic lines with gold bubble-fruit.

PurpleAndGoldEggs.jpg

And, because it’s Easter, I’ve also made a couple of Golgotha eggs. It’s a sunset scene, with the hillock and the three crosses set against the outskirts of the City. There’s a bit of gold mixed in the sky there, doesn’t come up in the photo too well.

GolgothaDetail.jpg

For more, check out my egg-blowing page.

Happy Easter everyone!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Blowing Eggs – The Easy Way

It’s Easter, Sunday 27th of Match, so for all you egg painting freaks, you’re probably thinking, “How am I going to blow all of my eggs in time?”, right? Am I right? I’m right, aren’t I?

Fret not! A while back I put up a post about how to blow eggs, the ins and outs, pitfalls, and at the end I mentioned that one can use a breast pump to speed up the process. The ‘Egg Express‘ (pun intended), if you will.

I’ve had a couple of sideways glances and disbelieving looks so, to show you how fast and easy it all is, I made a video.

The benefits are many: You can make a little production line – clean the eggs, make the holes, blow the shells, wash them and dry them – to go even faster or, if you’re into comfort over speed, simply chill in front of the television while pumping away. No mess, no fuss.

The only hard part is cleaning up afterwards. If you’ve got a pull-apart pump (like the one pictured), cleaning is a breeze.

Sorry for the interruption to the Digital Versus Hardback series, but time is pressing for Easter, so I had to knock this one out.

Also, more Easter Eggs this year. I wonder what the theme will be?Mini Jeztyr Logo

Merry Christmas – Craft

For Easter I prefer to paint eggs rather than buy chocolate eggs, simply because I think it’s a bit more personal.

When it comes to Christmas gifts, I must confess I’m resigned to simply purchasing them. Easter has a gifting theme, I guess, which implicitly narrows the scope of what’s available to be gifted, which is good for craft.

Christmas doesn’t follow this pattern.

Being so open ended, Christmas gifts can be just about anything, and, being anything for anyone, craft tends to be forgotten about.

For Kris Kringle this year at OrderMate, we were given the brief of ‘Mouse-Pad’. At first I groaned at the thought of trawling websites, going through thousands of ‘yeah, not quite’ options, then the thought struck me: This is a perfect opportunity for craft!

The result?

MinionMousePad

Tada! I could yak on about it but, you know what? I’ll let the video do the talking. Tips are in the Craft page.

Merry Christmas Sarah!

Swamp-Beast Egg

Still with the creepy, Halloween theme, we have the Swamp-Beast Egg.

It was going to be Cthulu, but everyone knows that Cthulu has tentacles. If you want to get all Lovecraftian, it could possibly be a Deep-One Egg. I’ve also heard it being called a Dragon-Egg. Whatever.

Preparation

Find a fat, rounded egg, so that Swampy looks like he’s had a healthy fish diet. Get boggly eyes (makes everything cuter) and some impasto medium.

Undercoat as described earlier, let it dry and then paint in a solid green. If you’re after a light-hearted beast, go for a bright, vivid green. A dark green will be decidedly moodier. As for his tummy, settle for a muddy mustard of river-bed brown. Two solid coats of that and let Swampy dry.

Get some white paint and mix it into some impasto. Using a slim paintbrush, scoop and roll it onto the egg about midway to form the teeth. Think goofy, clumsy canines jutting upwards.

Meet 'Swamps', the Deep-One
Meet ‘Swamps’, the Deep-One

Clean your brush out, let it dry, then mix red with the impasto. Scoop and roll a thick slab to form the lower lip, draping it across the teeth. Build it up and sculpt it with a knife or spatula if you need to.

As always, just ask for diagrams if you need them.

While you’ve got a blob of red impasto sitting there doing nothing, dip your paintbrush in and tease to form spikes on the back. Continue all the way down the back. If the spikes fall over, tease them back up again. They’ll hold when they’re dry.

Finishing

Let it dry, then mix some green in the impasto and build the lower portion of the mouth, and some eyebrows above where the eye will be. Thick, heavy eyebrows give an impression of brutishness, so be moderate if you want a goofy, rather than ugly or scary egg.

Stick on the eyes and let it dry: big and close for cute, small and wide for piggy.

When it’s all dry, pick up a fine brush, mix a different shade of green and make a succession of ‘scales’, little U shapes in rows, all the way around. This is the most time consuming part, so make sure you’ve got a coffee handy, especially if you’re doing a batch. You are doing this in batches, right? Everyone is going to want one!

Alright, so keep going around and around, making little U’s, alternative the position on each row. You can afford to get thicker at the back, where his scales would be larger, but as you near his face, scatter the scales and make them finer and smaller.

Mix some lighter tummy colour, and, using a fine brush, make horizontal lines.

Some spikes or fins on the back, plenty of scales.
Some spikes or fins on the back, plenty of scales.

Let it dry. Get some shiny gloss (he’s a swamp beast, he’s wet) and slather it all over him, going for at least two coats. I’m yet to find a proper egg cup for him, but that’s ok: He’s one of those eggs that likes to be picked up and held.Mini Jeztyr Logo