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!

Failing to Plan

Moving past the cliche, the plan is where any endeavour begins. I had an idea in my head that I was going to make the Adaptation animation a set of short scenes or stills, now the big questions came.

How long will it go for? How many stills or frame do I want? What kind of drawing am I after?

The Plan

I figure that a minute is as good a time to aim for. Too short, there isn’t enough time to get stuff on the screen. Too long, it’ll drag out. That, and I’ve a very limited time resource up my sleeve. Pretty much to the end of the year.

A minute. Slice that up into arbitrary pieces and that gives about ten six second shots or six ten second shots. Which means I’ve just committed to drawing up at least six scenes. Sheesh. At least that answers the second question.

What about the type of drawing? Well, it’s sci-fi, so slick would be nice, but I can’t draw slick. I do scruffy. I also don’t colour stuff in a lot, mostly black and white, or pencils or charcoal, that kind of thing. Then again…

There was a time, way back when, back when the magpies gorbled in the morning sun and I could ride my bike across paddocks, that I would draw line art with a mouse, fill with blocks of colour and then air-brush to lighten or shade the regions. Tada! Artwork!

Of course, I couldn’t print them out. Bubble jet printers were a few years away, and printing a full page image on a black ink 9 pin dot matrix is a torture left for the fourth circle of Hell. Ah, memories.

So… the Plan?

Right, sorry. I figure I’ll pick up where I left off, draw my scruffy black and white images, scan them into the magic electron shuffler and colour them in the old fashioned way. That’ll keep it handmade.

The next part of my plan is the scenes. I don’t think even-Steven timing is the go, but I’ll need to get, as I mentioned before, at least six scenes / drawings to play with, from different parts of the story:

  1. Ryan assaulting Henry underneath the maglev controller
  2. Penelope putting forth her questions to Ottavio
  3. The troops storming the Sanitation facility
  4. Lucas’ scouting the ruins, seeing the two figures disappear
  5. Master Pietro discovering the body of Brother Harris
  6. Father Abraham revealing himself to Ryan and Kahira
  7. Pan’s torture by the Rags, with Ottavio and Simon watching on
  8. Cassandra pleading with Ottavio not to leave
  9. Professor Jung’s demonstration to the Board
  10. Brother Janus, Sister HanifĂ© and Ottavio’s emancipation
  11. And there’s Ali, and Emily, and Norbert and Lucas and Masters Theodore and Jacob and Marcus, of course…

Ahhh, great. So many choices. Well, the good thing is that there’s plenty of material. The bad thing is that this poor shmuck is going to be busy with his pencil, mouse and eyeballs to create all the assets required.

Might as well get cracking. I’ll post as I go. If I’m not back before Christmas, send out a search party <breathes deeply>…Mini Jeztyr Logo

Animation for Adaptation

November? Is it really November? Yes, it is. That means it’s almost Christmas, and that means that the Software Development Cycle is preparing for end of year, and THAT means a bit of a scramble to get the bleeders tied off before we hibernate for the New Year’s break.

So… what does that all mean?

What it all means

Like exercise, if you only ever train your biceps, you’ll wind up with sore biceps and flabby everything else. A change of pace is a prime opportunity to have a change of creative outlet, so I am, once again, putting the writing on hold (well, a slow down. A couple of a pages a day, max) to work on some other pursuits.

Since The Bullet got some love with its own animation, I’ve been meaning to take the lessons learnt and apply to them to another animation. Atlas, Broken would be too hard, and while Grosvenor Lane would do well with dark silhouettes and spooky music (I’m counter-convincing myself now… damn), Adaptation needs to get some attention.

Why an animation? Books don’t get read unless you can attract a pair of eyes to look at them. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, as an indie author, you are responsible for getting your book seen. How you do that is up to you (just maintain your integrity. And your dignity while you’re at it.), and an online animation is just one way.

The Kit

So I’ve gotten myself kitted out with my tools once more:

  1. A pencil and paper for sketches and planning
  2. Gimp to handle importing and cleaning my sketches up
  3. Inkscape for converting things to Vector graphics
  4. Synfig to animate the whole show
  5. Anvil Studio to create a Midi Track
  6. Virtual MidiSynth and Soundfonts to give richer sound
  7. Audacity for any vocals, sound effects, etc.
  8. Window Movie Maker to plop the bits together and convert the final product to be presented on YouTube

With more of a physical, as opposed to a metaphysical story, to work with, the animation called for more ‘scenes’. My first thought was to make everything from the point of view of Ottavio or Ryan, but then I thought, no, the book isn’t about them, it’s about the world that they are in.

So I scrapped that idea and took a different approach: The promotional video is there not to tell the story, rather it tells the viewer about the story. It’s a front cover on steroids. Its a blurb that gets shown. It’s a chance to see the bits of the book that lets the reader know that the book is right for them.

The Plan

And so I looked at my options: I could play out a pivotal scene from the book. That sounded good, until I realised that no particular scene defines the intention of the book. Sure, it’d be easier given that I’d only have to make one set of drawings or scenes, but I’m not after easy, here, I’m after something I can look at and think, “Yeah. Happy with that.”

I then thought, “Why not a voice-over reading out the blurb”. No. No. No. I mean, that’s fine, soundwise, but a video wants some video. And it would be akin to a powerpoint presentation where the presenter reads out the dot points that the viewer can read for themselves. No.

So then I thought about movies, video games and television shows, and how they tended to present their entertainment: Snippets. Stills. Short clips of stuff. It gives a general feel of what it’s about, a couple of poignant comments or quotes, but it doesn’t hit the user over the head with information.

And that’s where I’m headed. Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting about the creative process, and I’ll share some of the drawings and music as I’m going along. The last post on animation was done retrospectively, whereas this will be a ‘work in progress’ one.Mini Jeztyr Logo

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

Mummy Egg

Keeping with the spooky, Halloween feel, but a whole lot less creepy, is the Mummy egg. Rather than polarizing, everyone, young and old, seems to like this one.

Preparation

There’s not a lot to prepare for this one. You’ll need some boggly eyes, some muslin or rough cotton cloth, some coffee and paint.

Cut you cloth into long strips. Get your coffee – instant, espresso, percolated, turkish, doesn’t matter so long as you haven’t added milk. What? You added milk? *Sigh* Drink that, then make another, and this time don’t add milk. Black Tea also works.

Soak your cloth in the brew for a few minutes to let it penetrate. Now rinse and squeeze it out. You should have soggy, bashed up, ‘aged’ cloth.

Method

  1. Paint your eggs a mustard yellow then, with a sponge, a rough brush or even some tissue, scrape on some green, grey or brown in blotches. Your Mummy has spent a lot of time in a sarcophagus!
  2. Don’t bother glossing it up: matte texture is fine. It’ll help with the wrapping as well.
  3. Stick your eyes on just above centre.
  4. Using craft glue, attach the start of the piece of cloth to the base of the egg.
  5. Wrap haphazardly. Don’t be shy going in all different directions. If your cloth is too thin, fold it over in half.
  6. Daub glue on to hold it in places, especially since eggs don’t like to be wrapped up.
  7. Finish off leaving a trailing bit of bandage.
  8. Find a proper egg cup to stick it in. I found the ones in the picture from Home – a Maxwell and Williams creation.

Mummy

For extra points, instead of an egg cup, try making a paper-mache sarcophagus!Mini Jeztyr Logo

Robot Egg

This is a crowd-pleaser. Not only is it cute, not only can it stand on its own two feet (yes, it has feet) but it’s fully customisable. The limit is only determined by what bits and bobs you have on hand.

Body and feet

Blow your eggs, undercoat and paint a solid metallic colour. Silver is good, copper works well. Set aside and let them dry, then get your keys and head on down to the hardware store (or rummage around inside your bits-box in the garage).

  1. Get some dome nuts. These will make the feet. You’ll need two per egg, so make sure you get enough.
  2. Get some wing nuts. These will make the shoulder joint. Again, two per egg.
  3. Get some black enamel washers to put underneath the wingnuts.
  4. Get some normal hexagonal nuts for the eyes. Two per.
  5. For the eye lens, go for a packet of clear rubber bumpers that you stick on the inside of cupboards to stop them banging. Hang on… these things.
  6. For the arms, walk to the garden section and look at the micro-fittings. Get some elbows (guess what they’re for?) and some nail-clips.

As for the antenna, find some small screws, scraps of wire, anything that looks ‘robotesque’.

Copper and Brass go well
Copper and Brass go well

Assembly

Paint your pieces before you assemble. Let them dry. Also, if you want diagrams for this, just let me know.

  • Glue your feet on first. The weight in the nuts will help support the egg. Position them a little forward so that the egg has a natural tendency to balance on them.
  • Push the nails out from the nail-clips and insert them the wrong way. This makes a claw.
  • Assemble the arms – don’t attach them to the egg until they’re dry. Into the wingnut, insert one side of the elbow. If you’ve manage to get the sizes right, you can literally screw it in.
  • Insert the nail of the clip into the other end of the elbow, glue it in. Make sure it’s properly dry before you move it. I found the nail wanted to slide out, even when the glue was almost dry.
  • Glue wingnut to enamel washer. This will provide a solid surface area to attach the assembly to the egg. Wait until dry.
  • Glue arm to robot, somewhere a little forward of centre, so that the balance is still toward the ‘feet’.
  • That is the hard part done! Now for the eyes: Glue the hex-nuts in position.
  • Peel vinyl stickers and stick the on the eye-nuts. Job done.
  • Glue on antenna, let the whole thing dry and, boom! Robot Egg!

RobotEgg

Patch Panel

Robots are cute. What’s cuter? A pathetic, bashed up robot. You can add one or two ‘patch-panels’ to the egg. This gives an impression of rustiness, clunkiness, unsophisticatedness (if that’s a word). To do this, get some masking tape and form a rude quadrangle on the back.

Get some slightly off-coloured (or completely dissimilar) paint and daub it on with a sponge to create a textured finish. Mix copper and silver together, or even add gold to make some ‘brass’. This makes your makeshift patch. Let it dry.

Using a very fine paint brush, the back of a paint brush or even some wire, add some ‘dots’ to make rivets, holding the plate on. Dip, dot, dip dot…

PatchPlate
Your patch plate to fix your broken robot

With some black paint, add some oil dribbling out the back, or perhaps add rust – green for copper rust, rufus for iron rust. Depends on the primary colour of your egg.

Let it dry and, (second) boom! A sad, pathetic, lovable robot!Mini Jeztyr Logo

The Prince and the Pauper

As you saw from the Deviled eggs and eggs Benedict, having ‘pairs’ or ‘themes’ of eggs is a fun way to mix things up at Easter. And there’s a good chance that if someone doesn’t like variant A, they can have B.

Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper was favourite story when I was a tacker, I’ve heard many variants, and the theme is common in movies and books. I chose to take an Indian variant with this pair.

The Prince

Note that the eggs are ‘inverted’ in that the smaller or pointier bit is at the bottom. This makes wrapping the turban a lot easier. It also means the primary hole will be covered by the turban.

Start with a coating of skin-coloured paint. While that’s drying, cut three 1″ pieces of ribbon and use craft glue to stick these lengthways on the top of the head. This will cover the gap formed once the herringbone pattern is made.

Prince

Once these are dry, dab some craft glue on the ribbon, and tightly wrap it around and around the head, dabbing with glue on each turn to hold it in place. Keep it tight, making sure the distance between wraps is consistent.

Pro tip: Fast acting glue is a life-saver here.

Once you have enough turns, glue the tail of the ribbon in place and trim.

If you need diagrams for this, just let me know.

Now comes the decorating: Get a chicken feather and glue it into a fold. Add some craft diamantes to enhance the asymmetry and, finally, glue on some eyeballs!

BlackAndRedPrince

Try varying the ribbon, jewel and feather colour. Black and red, for example, is striking. Blue and gold. Green and white. The choice is yours!

The Pauper

The egg is inverted, as with the Prince, but now we need to make him disheveled. Get a bit of foam and ‘blot’ the skin to make it rough and textured. Give him some stubble (he’s a teenager pauper) and small, sad eyes.

Now, for the turban: Go to your favourite material shop and buy some lightly patterned cotton. I’ve gone with red and white stripes here, which I also used for the cowboy egg’s neckerchief. Cut it into long strips, fraying the ends and roughing it up here and there.

Pauper

He’s a pauper, remember?

As with the Prince, cut three 1″ bits and glue onto the top of his head to cover the ‘gap’ made in the middle of the turban. Start the length off with a dot of glue, wrap around herringbone style, gluing on each pass. You can afford to be a bit sloppy with the turns, don’t try to hold it as tight.

With the last turn, glue it into place but don’t trim it. Let it fall freely.

Find a suitable egg cup. The white one used in the picture for presentation isn’t really appropriate. Go for something down-market.Mini Jeztyr Logo