Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Year Of The Prawn – err I Mean Dragon! And Happy Birthday Prawnling Project!

Yes, this blog is now over a year old! A year ago I had a general idea for a puppet, a rough sketch, and a frame of copper pipes wrapped in some aluminum foil – now, a year (and a dozen days) later I have a gray plasticine sculpture that is at least recognizable as a Prawn.

Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday of choice. We had a nice Christmas here.

And, because it’s the New Year and it’s what people do at this time of year I’ve decided to set myself some resolutions…

The first one I’ve kept to quite well – mainly that I’ve worked on CJ daily (with the exception of the weekends) since the beginning of January. I’m loving the workshop space my aunt and uncle have granted me – my uncle even built me an additional set of shelves over the holidays so that I could house my various tools and supplies more easily.

Resolution #2 - I think I’d like to try and have all the sculpting done by a month from now (so by Feb 19th). We’ll see how that goes. I’m giving a number of costuming panels at Ad-Astra in Toronto in early April and I would LOVE to have CJ done for then (especially since one of the panels is on building puppets…) but as I’ve mentioned before for once in my life I’m not going to rush myself for what are effectively arbitrary deadlines. This is not a commission, it’s a labour of love so I’m going to take my time. In a way it IS a commission-for me. And as both patron and artist I’m going to hold myself to a fairly enacting standard.

Which brings me to my third and final resolution and the one I’m trying hardest to uphold- to not be so hard on myself! Being both a perfectionist and fairly impatient person I find it rather easy to start beating myself over things I haven’t finished yet so I’m making a concentrated effort to look at what I have accomplished instead of chiding myself for not fulfilling goals that may actually be unrealistic or unreasonable. For example I haven’t worked on CJ 7-8 hours a day , five days a week, since the start of the year as I intended. I HAVE however put in a solid 3-5 hours every day, so really, why should I berate myself for the missing time?

… It’s funny how things work out. I was finishing the rough draft for this entry yesterday during a follow-up appointment for my broken wrist (which is doing well by the way!). Anyways, on the way home in the car I happen to hear a reading of “The Chair Men” by Robert Fulghum (the “Everything I Learned In Life I Learned In Kingergarten” dude). In the essay Fulghum relates coming across two young men who, for extra credit in college, were eating a chair. Yes, you read that right – eating a chair (I found a copy online here, so if you have 5 minutes check it out. It’s short and cute.) But if you don’t have 5 minutes here’s the kicker:

For all the goofiness of the project, these young men are learning patience and perseverance. Some things cannot be had except on a little-at-a-time, keep-the-long-goal-in-mind, stay-focused basis.

I’d say you’re a lot less goofy than eating a chair CJ, but I’m going to stick with you all the same ;)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I've Been Silent - But Not Idle!

Wow – what a year!

Remember how I mentioned before that I was moving? Oh wait – I didn’t?

Yes, around the time my sister got married, and my father became seriously ill, my family was also preparing to move. And not just to a different house – to an entirely different city!

However, amidst all the sorting and purging/packing of every item I own, I did manage to sneak in some CJ time. But only enough to either work on the sculpt OR update this blog – not both. Guess what won in the end?

So even though the last time you saw CJ he looked roughly like this:

The last time I saw him he looked like this:

Right down to his cute little Prawn-toes!

Actually that’s a bit of a fib. Last time I saw CJ he looked more like this:

All chopped up and packed in a big Rubbermaid box… :(

Poor CJ!

That’s STILL a bit of a fib since I DID manage to liberate CJ from said Rubbermaid box, (he survived with only minor injuries) in the space in my aunt & uncle’s basement that they are graciously allowing me to use as a workshop.

However right after I did that I went back to my hometown to help shoot a short film

… and promptly tripped on set and broke my right wrist.


( Yeah, yeah, Angry!Wikus I know. Trust me - I WISH I were making this up)

In fact, I broke said wrist SO badly it needed surgery. I now have The Right Cast Of Doom and although I’m getting by pretty well I’ve found I can’t do anything, like writing or drawing, that takes any sort of fine precision (so sculpting is pretty much out too :P ).

So for the next week or two while I wait to get this cast off I’ll be getting stuff caught up with the blog here (I did have some very cool fun adventures in addition to the frustrating work-stopping ones ;P) and then we’ll be all set to face a new round of Prawn puppet building!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Good thing you're not a girl CJ...

... or I might get in trouble for the cropping on these pictures ;)

Here's roughing in of CJ's chest...

I can see this area going through multiple changes because this is one spot my reference material is a little sketchy.

I have some GREAT shots of the Weta maquette, which should, in theory, be OK after reading in The Art of District 9 that the major differences between the CJ maquette and the finished CG CJ were all in the face... however some of the screen shots seem to contradict this. And then of course the problem with the screen shots is that they're often blurry and CJ's t-shirt obscures any details.

So I have no choice but to more or less follow the Weta maquette... but we'll see how happy with it I am, the further I get.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Head Games...

(Something tells me by the time I'm done this Prawn puppet I'm going to have exhausted all the creative titles involving the word 'head' :P )

So here's CJ, happily positioned back out in the middle of my newly cleaned workshop, ready to be sculpted!

You may recall I was trying to keep the sculpt at the same level of "doneness" as I worked (ie. I didn't want to completely finish off one area, like the head, while other parts were still in just-roughed-in stage).

Having roughed in CJ's basic shape I wanted to do a little more refining, so I started back at CJ's head, with the plan to work my way down.

Here you can see me roughly "sketching" in some guidelines (while standing on a stool, I should note) as I try and get both sides of the head to be the same shape.

I also started, after comparing the sculpt to the super-cute reference pic, to cautiously fill in around the eyes and bulk-up CJ's "cheek-bones" (cheek exo-skeleton?), and roughly sketch in his face-plates.

More refining and rounding off of the back of CJ's head. I used a rake tool to start and then smoothed that with a loop tool (yes, with temporary skewer-antennae).

Roughing in CJ's head ridges - you can see how I did one side and then used a mirror to see if I was getting the second ridge the right size and shape.

With both ridges roughed in.

Pleased with the progress I decided to then move onto CJ's chest next.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm back fro- 2 MONTHS!?!

Great Prancing Prawns has it really been 2 months?!!

I signed off my last post saying that it would be a few days before I got back to working on CJ because I had to finish my sister’s wedding dress and prep the make-up for an independent film I was helping with.

All of which DID happen – it just took a gosh darn bit longer than I was expecting it too.

I literally ended up in the trenches…

… on the set of 21 Brothers, an independent film about a battalion from Kingston ON, Canada in WWI. I got to do fun things like get everyone really dirty (with fake dirt), play with an air-powered bullet rig, and give someone a nice case of trench foot…

… Mmmmm juicy… ;)

Then my friends in Toronto threw me an Octopus’ Garden Party in honour of my 30th birthday where someone ended up bringing cans of cat food as decoration…

… then someone else gave me a D9 “Non-Human” dog-tag as a present, and one of the party games was “Pin-The-Pom-Pom-On-The-Prawn”.

(No, I’m not kidding, and yes, my friends are AWESOME)

I swear, if you know me well enough, this Teenage-Mutant-Ninja-Octopus-Holding-An-Interstellar-Ant-Queen cake makes perfect sense…… really

And yes, I finished my sister’s wedding dress (two days before the wedding, rather than a month early like I’d hoped). The skies cleared, the heavens smiled, the Bride and Groom both looked stunning, and much, much fun was had by the crowds of family and friends who joined us to celebrate the day…

But, to paraphrase Kermit the Frog … “those were disasters we knew about all along”. I knew about the film, the party, and the wedding all ahead of time (my time management/estimating skills just suck is all). I managed to squeeze in ONE short session of sculpting in all of April, and the results were negligible...

Poor CJ all alone and armless, relegated to the corner of the workshop…

The TRUE unforeseen disaster which sidelined my entire family for the last several weeks started with my father coming down with what we thought was food poisoning or a 24hr flu bug and ended up with him in the local ICU on kidney dialysis and a respirator. I’m very, VERY, happy to report that he has just come home and that at this point it looks like he will make a full and complete recovery.

But things were scary for awhile…

… and somewhat paradoxically that’s exactly the time I went running back to CJ.

When my Dad was out of danger and stable but still under sedation in the hospital I reached the point where I had to work on SOMETHING. I felt like I’d been holding my breath for two weeks and I desperately needed to do something that did NOT involve the hospital or mindlessly sitting in front of the TV. In fact my mother insisted I get up and get moving and work on something to relieve the stress and worry that was plaguing me.

And CJ was the perfect solution.

I’ve already had a few great 3-4 hour sessions with him in the last few days and am making real visible progress. So in the next few posts I will endeavor to keep further yakking on my part to a minimum while I show you what the two of us have been up to…

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Playful Prawn Pelvises

Well I feel a little better now - I'm only a couple days off with this post, rather than a full week.

So based on the overlapped outlines from the last post...

... I definitely had to add some more bulk to CJ's chest.

And adjusting the back.... (does that make me a Space Cricket Chiropractor?)

Now based on the side view, the hips didn't need to be adjusted that much, but based on the front view...

... CJ's hips were looking a little on the skinny side. They needed some rounding and bulking out.

I think next time I'm going to try and match up the angles between the sculpt and the reference photo for the front view so I can compare them as I've been comparing the sculpt to the side view.

Sadly that won't be for a few days though. As badly as I want to play with CJ I have a week to finish my sister's wedding dress AND prep the make-up for an independent film I'm helping with.

Important projects to be sure - but I do so miss CJ when I can't work on him ;)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

First A Dinosaur And Now - Professor X?!?

Yikes - well these pics are at least a week old (if not, perhaps, a little... more) but that's actually because I've been too busy sculpting to post :) (although not all of that sculpting was on CJ....)

So when we last left our intrepid Prawnling I'd roughed in the basic sculpt and it was onto the fun of refining things! :)

For which I decided the best place to start was at the top!

Sadly this meant popping off those cute temporary skewer stick antennae and undoing a lot of the nice details I was happy with when I first sculpted CJ's head before Christmas....

Rake - smooth, rake - smooth and thus...

Is it just me, or is CJ starting to look a little like Professor Xavier?



His profile was looking pretty good so I decided to compare it to my reference pic again in Photoshop. But in playing with the opacity filters over the two pictures I realized that it was sometimes hard to tell what was the edge of the reference photo and what was the edge of the sculpt.

So I took a fresh layer, lowered the opacity, and traced over the reference photo with a nice, bright colour like so. Then I repeated the process with my latest photo of the sculpt.

Then I set the opacity on both to 50% and overlapped them
(I had to change the green to blue because otherwise the red and green cancelled each other out where they overlapped. This is me failing Colour Theory 101)

So now the trick is to adjust the sculpt till the red lines match up with the blue ones (at least the head and torso lines - the "scaffolding" that's holding CJ up actually prevents me from sliding the legs into the exact same position as the ref pic).

I have had a few second thoughts about using this Photoshop overlay method quite so much. On the one hand it's quite helpful in showing me errors. On the other hand I wonder if it's really helping train my eye to analyze the shapes and forms correctly or am I just using it as a crutch?

Yet it's a common sculpting trick to hold a mirror up to your work in order to recognize irregularities in the sculpture that your mind has otherwise become desensitized to. Is this not just a high-tech mirror? I wonder...