Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Another Miss Julia

My dear friend Britt had a character named Julia long before I did. (Incidentally, I named my Julia after my Grandma - and sisters Rosalyn and Emilia after my great aunts Emily and Rose - no other real resemblances known or intended) For Britt's Birthday and Christmas this year I decided since I had already done a picture of her character Gabriel (My unofficial boyfriend from back in the day), that I would now do a puppet of his wife - the second Julia.

Beyond the challenge of blonde hair (a variety of yarn, not embroidery floss) and matching a different artistic style (I tried to make her appear more like how Brit draws her), I also had the interesting task of late 1800s fashion. How is it so different than the first Julia??? Oh, the difference 10 years can make. The early-mid 1870s of Great Britain saw much more bustle - a different silhouette on top of much more draping - than the early 1860s of Holland.

Check out more of this Julia's story on Britt's blog HERE

Biggest lesson of all on this puppet - Brocade is even more of a pain to work with at a smaller scale. Time for more in-depth researching on fabric types!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

CTN Wrap Up 2014

Tis that time of year – the post-CTNX slump/high. It's both because:

  1. Slump – I'm back in the gray cube again, anxious to get home and really dive into those crazy ideas and plans I got from the weekend. Colorado is cold and snowy and miserable as always. My OA friends have dispersed home as well, so I miss them as much as I miss the weather.
  2. High – I made lots of new friends. I learned a few new ways to improve and innovate in my process. :) And OMG those ideas and plans I mentioned earlier are going to be AWESOME...

This year's epic quest began at 4am on Thursday. We got to the airport and flew out at 7am. We had a connection in Las Vegas (Which I was concerned about mainly because I forgot that they are on PST not MST) where we met up with Maria K. from PD1G3. When we got to Burbank we gathered everybody in OA at the hotel and departed for the Getty. I did make a small miscalculation in van capacity, but all considering it was a definite step up from last year. (Everybody got a seat belt this year) After the traditional Getty exploration, we stopped back at the hotel to check in and pick up our exhibitor badges, then went to the Center Stage Gallery for the Lovely Opening, which lived up to it's name for sure. After that I had the best chicken and apple hot dog ever and promptly crashed once I got back to the hotel.

Friday morning started at 8am with table set up, which went smoothly. Oni had broken a tooth in transit, but that was easily glued back in place. Nic and Aimee were one booth up from us. Blythe, Jessie Kate, Keith and Shawn B. were across and two down from us. It was way too much fun to have everybody so close. The Hall opened at 10am for VIPs and 12pm for everyone else. I don't remember eating lunch that day...Raul might have been the only one to leave the booth at all until 7pm when it closed. Raul crashed right away. I stayed out on the Patio with OA until 10-10.30 when I too felt pretty dead and went to sleep.

Saturday morning was up at 9am. This was the day I got a bit of time to walk around. If possible it was packed twice as much as last year. Craziness! Claire sold out of her new art books which bummed me out a bit, but otherwise stayed in budget...for once. So many people came to talk to me about making their own puppets – there was only one other person who had a puppet on display and LAIKA didn't have a booth. It was really great seeing the enthusiasm and swapping techniques with all the insanely talented people. Lunch was at 3pm – I remember because I went to get it. Floor closed at 7pm. Was at the Patio until about 11pm. Crashed.

Sunday was another 9am day. It was slower which was nice. It let me regain my voice a bit from the past two days. Floor closed at 5pm. I passed on the Champagne and went straight to sign up for next year's booth. Ate dinner with Raul and we both watched TV (We don't have it at home...certainly do not miss commercials) and relaxed until we crashed.

Flew home 8am on Monday. Unpacked, picked up Tito, took Raul to his last class at the Science Museum, and napped a bit. (Oni broke his other tooth on the way back, but it was another easy fix) Rather ironically my car decided that it was just as not happy about the weather as I am, so will need to take care of that sometime in the next week. Tonight I will be tweaking a few things in the Plan and helping Raul get set up for all that he has a mind to do for next year. It's going to be BIG. ;)

I brought a camera. But I only took 3 pictures (Of the booth we were in all weekend) and they didn't come out the best...so yeah, at least I didn't forget completely this year. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cosmic Jingle Art Newsletter!!

Do you like following your favorite creators on multiple platforms...but feel like you’re missing half the conversation because you don’t have time for platform hopping?

Do you like the feeling of being in the “inner circle” of your favorite creators? Getting exclusive content? Getting updates before the crowd?

I answered yes to all those questions, so it dawned on me that I should extend these perks to those who like my art and follow me all over. Starting January 2015 I am gift wrapping my content just for you, delivering it to your email inbox no more than once monthly.

Announcements? Special content? Social media highlights? Sketchbook snippets? Blog summaries? OniSan updates? All included, so don’t miss out - sign up for my email newsletter and join the adventure! 

Check out the sign up form to the right OR click here

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Big Pre CTN Post of 2014!

Nope. Not dead yet. I’ve been a very busy bee for the last few months getting everything ready for...well, everything that needed getting ready. I really appreciate those who've stuck with me!

I saw the Boxtrolls...twice. Believe me if I could afford the time and money to see it again in theaters I would. It was BRILLIANT. I had a few friends who worked on it and I squealed when I saw their names in the credits. Kudos guys!! I am stoked more than ever for it to come out on DVD so I can watch ALL THE SPECIAL FEATURES! (Same goes for Book of Life - though I saw it but once, I was equally squeal-ly through the credits) 

We moved. While I was very much hoping to avoid another winter here, there was a sort of series of events that lead to us opting for one last short lease here. So the Big Move has been postponed - but still very much on the radar. This shorter move allowed us the opportunity to have a little more saved and downsize a bit. (If you or someone you know is interested in a art/craft desk please let me know) It also freed up more time and funds to prepare for CTN. And now with a later departure date, we can have cross-country assistance from my mom - who is much experienced in such things. Love you, Mum.

Tito is doing well. Old as he is, odd as he is. The Vet we took him too recently said he was an adorable geriatric patient and put his image up on their Facebook page. Hearing him referred to that way really drove home the fact that I live with a grandpa dog. (Apart from the lumps he doesn’t really look all that old) As if the snoring and hobbling about and sleeping all the time didn’t already confirm that. lol

Speaking of lumps and moving, I found one unexpectedly during our move. Doctor 1 thought it was either a cyst or a fibroadenoma. Doctor 2 thought it was a fibroadenoma or a malignant tumor. And Doctor 3 confirmed that it was a fibroadenoma - which is good news. The hole in my chest is healing quite nicely and I also discovered they make ice packs designed to fit in your bra. The amount of cool that is cannot be described with words, only silly grinning faces. Truly a lifesaver in this case.

I finished Painting Drama I. Finished as in the class is over and there are no more assignments. Not finished as in it will never really end. Which is immensely cool. Probably in the Spring I will try to take Painting Drama II. It was a great class with amazing students - I’m so proud of everyone and privileged to be a part of the cookie madness. 

I finished the New Julia and the New Oni, both of which will be on display at CTN. I didn’t have much time to document the process unfortunately - much of it was the same as last time, but there was a lot more care in the details now that it’s less an experiment and more of a product mindset, no use of sewing machine and minimal hot glue (Almost everything is hand stitched), and I used furniture foam to have more control in shaping things and keep things light. I tried a few other new materials such as Raffia for Oni’s hair too.

CTN draws ever closer!!! Raul and I will be at T148. We aren’t selling anything this year, but Raul will be gauging interest in an exciting new endeavour and I will be gathering names for an email list as I prepare to take Onisan THE NEXT STEP. (Ooooooh. Ahhhhhh. What could that be I wonder?) There are a few other Oatley Academy fellows exhibiting in the same area with exciting things to see and buy - so I believe we shall hold a special OA rave. lol Both Raul and I are extremely humbled and really excited about being a part of the show this year. It promises to be even bigger and better than the last. AND I WILL BRING MY CAMERA FOR TAKING PICTURES. 

And that’s the update! There’s more to come post-CTN - including information about the new newsletter and ALL the pictures!! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

OniSan Update!!

He does exist!! 
I just finished sculpting him last night, so I should have him painted by next week. It's been nuts fitting him in on top of everything else, but he's finally making some head way. Raul has been working on his face sculpt - while it won't be ready for this puppet version, it will for the next. Both Oni and Julia (The new one!) will be with me for CTN - which draws ever closer and ever more intimidating and ever more exciting! :)
More to come soon, for now - back to work!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Let Them Eat Cake!

June was full of cake. Seriously, my diet was pretty much entirely cake for 2-3 weeks. And yes, my body still hates me for it. It got to the point that my boss limited Birthdays to once a month...and for once I am totally okay with that.

Denver Comic Con went really well. I was only there on Sunday, but I got to meet up with several Oatley Academy students - always a blast! I took copious notes on booth set ups since Raul and I will be sharing a table this year at CTN. :)

I've started a SECOND OniSan so even if this puppet doesn't turn out well, I will still have an Oni to show in November. Raul has started digitally sculpting the puppet's faces. I should have some process photos soon - of both versions.

Painting Drama 1 started up the same weekend as DCC, so I've been busy busy on those homework assignments too. It's a challenge, but it's totally blowing my mind with awesome!

We went to see Raul's family for the 4th of July. It was...adventurous. I particularly enjoyed climbing over all the boulders and trying out a s'mores shot. This weekend he'll be going back to pick up his dog - a 14 year old chihuahua named Tito. Tito didn't like me the first 5 or so times I came home with Raul, but I think he's significantly less grumpy now that his hip is doing better. Hopefully he doesn't find our lifestyle too boring or lonely.

Now I need to wrap this up since it's Raul and my anniversary and we're going out for dinner. Thanks for hanging in there, everyone. I'll be posting more artwork soon!! :)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Month 8 Tree Lesson WIP + Godzilla's Origins in Classical Theater

I thought I'd take a few days to try and catch up a bit in Magic Box before leaping into Painting Drama. (Both very excellent classes offered by the Oatley Academy of Concept Art and Illustration) Don't worry, I'm still chugging along on that OniSan puppet and hope to have another update soonish!!

There's been a massive amount of content added to the lessons since I was last able to spend time in the Secret Lab, so I picked a month more or less at random to resume. I will go back and complete all the lessons eventually. So much learning!
The WIP is for month 8 – on various ways of handling trees as part of the Environment Set.
The idea is to tell a story where the tree(s) features prominently – no skirting around them in this exercise. If I have time I might render it in the three different styles we've been looking at as well, but that greatly depends on the master time table for this year. It's crazy to think it's already almost half gone.

My tree piece was inspired by a comment Chris made about the tree as a Sun Worshiper. The last time I was in a church I observed many people raising up their hands and crying out. This startled me at first because I has been raised in a different denomination (And even then a seldom participant...I don't even remember why I was at this particular church in the first place) and thus unused to anything other than quiet kneeling and sitting in contemplation, the occasional reserved hymn-ing. But I certainly see nothing wrong in expressing such joy and devotion in this more open way. I had been doing sketches of Japanese Maple trees (I love their vibrant colors) and I imagined my maple as a radiant follower of Amaterasu – Shinto goddess of the Sun.

Originally my composition was larger and I explored secondary elements like a fairy village and a maiden – in accordance with the Kwaidan story of the girl with a tree's soul – and other such yokai, but I felt that took the emphasis too far from the tree itself. If I'm going to focus on the tree might as well cut the filler and just do it. So then I sought to balance my tree's gesture between what a maple looked like (Some of them are pretty gnarly) and how a dancer moved (Aiming for a sprightly sort of grace). I'm really excited to jump into value and color studies. A little nervous about the rendering bit, but much more confident with the first 3-4 months worth of lessons under my belt.

As a parting note, and not to spoil things, I was okay with the new Godzilla movie. I wish there had been more Godzilla in it, but I was not quite so bothered by the design as some where. I liked that he still moved like a man in a suit. There was in fact an interesting documentary on Youtube that Raul had me watch beforehand, on the suit actors themselves. Many of them were Kabuki actors, so it was a fortunate overlap in interests for the two of us as he watched to assist in designing a kaiju for a contest and I watched to see the poses, movement, and storytelling. I had already been looking closely at Kabuki demon masks when designing OniSan, so it was great seeing them in action. And I can totally understand why they would enlist Kabuki actors to play the monsters...some of those traditional costumes were absolutely nuts.

If you've got time and love seeing crazy cool stuff:

Godzilla Suit Actors Part I 

Godzilla Suit Actors Part II


Bunraku Puppets 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Calling All Global Exchange Students and Families!!

 (Takachiho, Japan)

Now that the family visiting has finally subsided and I'm getting back into the groove of things...

I'm sure I've told many of you this story and you are certainly welcome to skip ahead, but for those who don't know, it started with a teacher's strike.

When I was in 7th grade we basically got November off from school. At the time it was a welcome break since one of the several things Montana doesn't believe in is “Snow Days.” But we did have to make up the time out of class...which meant Saturday classes and substitutes. The sub for my Geography class was a pleasantly quirky woman who instead of going over the boring landmarks of the surrounding states for the umpteenth time decided to pitch us all an idea – why not learn geography from someone who lives there? Why not host an exchange student? From what I recall, most of my classmates were asleep (Seriously, Saturday morning classes? No thank you) and maybe one other guy was interested in what the Area Representative had to say.

 (Muriwai Beach, Auckland, New Zealand)

I was held in thrall for the whole presentation and as I willingly admit to being a bit stubborn in terms of pursuing things I want, my family started hosting students the very next school year. I guess you could say that was my “rebel phase,” to wear knee-high goth boots and collect foreign siblings/friends who would curse with me in anything but English. Due to my familial background, we started hosting students from Germany. I learned so much from them, that the itch to get out and be an exchange student myself just grew and grew.

But my application was rejected. Pretty crushing for a 16 year old considering the amount of work that goes into one of those YFU applications, but I wasn't going to let one form letter stop me. I applied again the next year and I got in. My initial reaction upon receiving that package with the T shirt that could fit 3 of me was: “MOM. MOM. MOM. I GOT IN! I'M GOING TO...Japan? Wait. What?” I had spent all this time preparing for an adventure to Germany – language lessons, cultural tips from hosting students, etc. I really had no clue how I was going to survive in Anime-Tomorrowland.

(Kumamoto Jo, Kumamoto, Japan)

Obviously, I not only survived – I thrived. So many things just clicked for me that it was the most trans-formative experience I've had yet. Of course that inspired hosting more students and a second trip for me in college to New Zealand for a semester and volunteering/mentoring exchange students here and someday I'll probably go back to hosting. It's a cycle. I'm cool with it.

So as an avid advocate for study abroad and as a way to share that initial experience with others, I've been working on the personal project entitled OniSan. I felt the perfect way to communicate discovering my love for the Japanese culture was to express it through an adaption of an existing, universal tale with similar themes – Beauty and the Beast. I've already received a lot of positive feedback on the development and I'm really touched by the people finding those posts not only inspiring, but helpful.

(Pt. Chev Beach, Auckland, New Zealand)

That said, I am aware that many people will be...surprised by my interpretation. My experience of Japan is unique to me, as are my personal preferences. (Big shock: I didn't respond strongly to the pop culture aspects – this is a big reason why I avoided a more direct retelling set in 2007 when I was there) So I imagine those who expect or want one thing may be quite confused to see something seemingly unrelated to their own ideas. I encourage them to be open minded. I am equally as sure that there will be others who see pieces of OniSan and feel it resonate with their own stories and experiences...and laugh at how silly it seems in retrospect. ;)

Now, to all my exchange friends and family, I want to hear from you!!
What was your exchange experience like? Did you go somewhere or did you host/interact with foreign guests? What inspired you to participate in this global exchange? What was your biggest challenge? What was your biggest success? If you could tell your younger self one thing, what advice would that be? Would you recommend studying abroad or hosting to others? How does your experience affect your life now?

(Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan)

I'm really interested to know what you think! Please share in the comments or email/message me!! :)

Here are some awesome resources for those interested in joining in the international fun.
Remember to check for scholarships (That's how I was able to go to Japan):

Youth For Understanding

Cumulus International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media http://www.cumulusassociation.org/
(Check with your University or College for details on their own programs)

Volunteering/Interning Abroad

Teaching English Abroad with TEFL

US Peace Corps

 (Weta Workshop, Wellington, New Zealand)

Monday, April 14, 2014

CGHUB and My Bleeding Heart

Since learning about the Heartbleed, I've been taking stock of my online presence. (Nothing like a major security gap to get the heart pumping) It's nice to have a better handle on where I am, what I use the internet for, etc. But it was also quite a headache getting everything updated.

Almost at the same time, I realized this was happening: http://conceptartworld.com/?p=32801
I can't say I've been that active on CGHUB. I only had a modest selection of my art posted and didn't follow anyone there that I didn't already follow everywhere else. So it wasn't so great a heart break for me personally. That said, I do know people who are very upset; this was their go to place for posting, interacting, and finding inspiration. It is very difficult to loose a community like that, especially so suddenly and without much reason given. There are many other communities out there (some listed on the page linked above) and I'm sure they will find a home again soon.
Thank you internet.

Am I going to go out and join another art community since CGHUB is gone? Probably not. I have enough trouble remembering all the changed passwords. I don't need another one to get confused.

April update: Working away on the Oni sculpting parts. Sue's Monday is thumb nailed and ready for a nice line drawing and some color. And I spent the majority of this last weekend writing. It's been a long while, but I woke up Saturday with an urge to write. OniSan's story just spilled out of my fingers and I'm almost done with the first draft. Guess it was done incubating and ready for hatching. :)
I also applied for Painting Drama 1 – the original Chris Oatley class – so that will be starting up in June/July. Definitely need to catch up a bit with Magic Box...

This weekend I'll be gone for Easter. Hoping to dye some eggs. The following weekend (Starting Thurs actually) I'll be up in Montana visiting – for those who want to meet up, txt me for I may not have my car while I'm there – mainly just playing with/staring at my sister's baby. Baby!! :D

Speaking of babies - Congrats to Brett and Julie Bean on their adorable son!! Best wishes to everyone and I'm super excited and happy for you! :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

OniSan Update!

 No!! No pictures! I'm camera shy!! 

Oooo excitement! Here is the armature stage for the Oni of OniSan. You'll no doubt notice a few differences between the armature for Julia: 1. More massing in of the body and 2. No head. 
This is why: 1. In accordance with the design, more of his body is going to be "visible", necessary to fully structure than Julia's body (Mainly hidden by clothes/highly structured under garments) Normally I'd advocate doing every part since it's educational and, to me at least, fun. But when you're on a budget, it's okay to creatively problem solve around material restrictions. He's also going to be a bit more mobile in terms of posing. Julia's pretty stationary - more of a show than a touch item. Within reason, I want people to be able to "play" with Oni when he's on display. More on that later. 2. I'm not sculpting a head - that mechanic is being handled by Raul, who promises to do his own write up for me to link to when I create Oni's master post down the road. (Should be especially great for those of you who like sculpting digitally and are curious about 3D printing) The middle picture is more or less a suggestion as to where we're going with that. Took me far longer than necessary to find the proper (KS) pipes for it - hint, go to a HOBBY STORE not a hardware or craft store. 
Anyways, he's a good inch or two taller than she is, making him close to a foot tall - but I won't have an accurate dimension until we get the head back from print and assembled. I had originally envisioned using foam to mass in the larger areas, it's a bit lighter and in my opinion holds shape a bit better than foil, but I didn't know how I would bake the necessary sculpy bits - if the foam would melt or not - so for now it's foil again. If all goes well I may go back and replace the aluminum with foam. I would like to try/demonstrate that technique since it's not too expensive or difficult from what I can tell. We'll see I guess. I'm a bit anxious and excited for those hands. Since I won't be spending a lot of time sculpting the face myself, I will have time to focus on the hands - awesome because having more time on them will let me try to match the quality of the digital head sculpt, but nervous also because hands are indeed a bit difficult. His especially are going to be quite interesting.

Going to be a busy next few months, can hardly believe that April is nearly half over. Will be checking in regularly, more often than not having some kind of update along the way. If you have any questions about materials or process I will be doing another master post at the end, but please leave me a comment and I can answer it more immediately! Also, if there's anything you're interested in seeing me break down/explain further let me know and I can do step-by-step shots too!! :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sue's Sunday

A Sunbonnet Sue Sunday involves skipping along to church. Traditionally she would be walking to/from the church – we may or may not see the church itself – and she would be in contemplation with a flower or her prayer book and rosary. I figured she'd be pretty relieved after a full week of strenuous chores to have a moment of rest and spiritual nourishment, maybe she'll get to see her friends or friendly neighbors.

I would never be this thrilled to attend church, but that's a different story.

Things I realized while working on this:
  1. Sketch Up is not only excellent for spot checking your perspective quickly, its ability to rotate a crude model will also help you pick a better/more realistic angle.
  2. Skipping is fun to do, but looks weird.
  3. The lovely ladies in my family (Sister-Mom-Nana) all look like each other, though in this particular instance Sue is looking a tiny bit more like my sister than my Nana. Go figure.
  4. I think switching out col-erase pencil colors in between projects helps me focus on separate ideas and keep energized – i.e. Julia in green pencil is different than Oni in purple pencil is different than Sue in pink. Sue would be pink.
  5. When in doubt, put a bird in it. (Or a sad puppy...with a bandage...omg I love birds!)  
I hope you enjoy Sunday. One day down, six more to go. And next week should be an Oni update post!! :)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Quick! To the Muse-Mobile!!

So. There was no post last week. Various contributing reasons, but the best one was:
My sister had her adorable Eva on Wednesday and both baby and mom are home/healthy. I know lots of people say this, but she is the cutest monchichi I ever have seen. I am itching to get home this April to see her and poke those chubby cheeks. 

And now for the worst reason for no post last week: I had nothing to post. >< I've been taking my time with Oni since he's just as important if not more so than Julia. I've nailed a design that I'm happy with and have been carefully building up pieces for Raul's reference as he's sculpting the parts that will be 3D printed, so I had nothing ready yet. In an effort to quickly bolster my archive so that I might have something to post in the slow moments (I anticipate a lot in April since I'll be out of town two weekends in a row) I started a sketch of Anne Neville from The White Queen. 
I didn't love it. 
I mean, it was okay, but it wasn't challenging. It was too close to the Tudors historically and culturally. It wasn't to try out a new technique. And beyond my passing fancy of the series, it didn't speak to me. The York and Lancaster women were certainly strong and interesting characters, but my favorite person in the whole series was Richard III. 
Fellow Shakespeare enthusiasts may well be confused or ashamed. I am myself still puzzled. 

Feeling rather despondent, I went into my kitchen and promptly spilled something since that seems to be what I do in the kitchen most of the time. Spill things. I looked around for a hand towel and there were none. Which is also not surprising since my significant other enjoys playing hide and seek with my hand towels. (Who needs a cat when you can have a boyfriend?) I finally found a hand towel under the couch and that's when inspiration struck. 

For about as long as I can remember any house in which I reside has had one or more of these hand towels, lovingly hand embroidered with various Sunbonnet Sue patterns. I do not have a complete set though I would like one, I seem to only acquire those intended for the month of January (As if looking out the window wasn't enough of an indicator that I live in an inconsiderately cold climate). None the less, they have always intrigued me since you never see Sue's face. You never know if she does her chores jovially or with resentment. Who is Sue anyways? Would it destroy the mystique to give her more than a hat?
So after cleaning the spill I did some digging. The original "Sunbonnet babies" were the creation of Denver native Bertha Corbett Melcher, a children's book illustrator in the early 1900s who studied under Howard Pyle. That was a name I recognized from Art history class. Her hooded children doing chores were reprinted on everything you could imagine, including fabric - leading to the HUNDREDS of patterns existing today, including multicultural Sues and Sues of various ages. 
I already had hand towels (Likely to get more for Christmas) and I didn't need another puppet project immediately, but I wagered my own take on Sue might be an interesting tribute to my Nana and great Nana. And it'd give me something to post in-between Oni updates. Since that style of bonnet was a bit too close to the time period of OniSan, I updated her to an era I had thus far widely neglected, the 1930s (Oh so Greatly Depressing in terms of fashion) and ta da!

More to come from both OniSan and Sunbonnet Sue! :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


Aww yeah! LEVEL UP!! This is for the IlloLifeRPG that the amazing Chris Conlon started. (I met him through Oatley Academy - super awesome fun times!!)

Check out those boosted Sculpting, Patience, and Constitution stats. Hard earned those.

For this level, I was thinking of playing up the "evil" since for whatever reason I scored that alignment the first time around. (Probably had something to do with traffic that day) At the time I was sketching I was also watching a Fashion documentary on Netflix, so my brain said "strike a fierce pose...like Tyra!" Next on the Netflix playlist was Tron...so yeah, color scheme, straight lines and circles. Little bit rushed towards the end; just super stoked for the next puppet-y piece. (I suppose it should have been orange then...if I was really sticking to the "evil" theme)

Why so much Netflix lately? Well. It started with Tonsilitis. Which was treated with Amoxicillin. That caused an allergic reaction. Which was handled with mass amounts of Benadryl. That was stopped cold turkey once the hives went away. Which caused a major upset in my stomach. That eventually lead to an awkward nap in my cubicle during lunch today. Three weeks later and I think I've finally kicked it. :)

So now that Miss Julia is finished (Save one more page down the road) I've started work on OniSan. Already have a few sketches that I like, but I want to try pushing him further before settling on a design to take forward. When I was talking to Lady Katherine before she flew home today, she had some ideas for Oni involving more adjustable appendages made of foam so I might try that out and do another massive case study - It'll be a bit more practical for puppets as opposed to sculptures. And I do intend to highlight more of the inherited sewing skills as well. So look forward in the coming weeks for the start of that.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Building Character: Julia Master Post

Most of my lovely regulars have been following the development of this particular mini-project in past posts, but a few such lovelies suggested a Master Post with the whole process, materials and more comprehensive insight into the struggles and victories I experienced while bringing Miss Julia to life. I think it's a brilliant idea. Not only do I hope that it inspires others in their endeavors, but it will help me when I start the next mini-project: IE Julia's counterpart, OniSan.

It's going to be a big post...so hold onto your butts.  

The Idea. The original plan was to make a fully functioning stop-motion puppet, something akin to Coraline or ParaNorman since creating characters for LAIKA is my dream job. To begin, I watched every stop-motion movie plus their special features I owned or could find legally online and scoured through the two books that I got for my birthday on stop-motion:
      1. Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation: Edition 2 by Susannah Shaw (Recommended by LAIKA on Twitter and gifted by Mom)
      2. The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation by Ken A. Priebe (Gifted by Raul – whoever wants to gift me part one will be loved forever)
Both wonderfully helpful for people making puppets and for people animating puppets and really for anyone interested in stop-motion. After sticky-noting my way through these and doing some more Google-based research on custom part costs. It became clear that as much as I wanted to learn/strengthen my molding/casting and tinkering abilities, I would not be able to make her a puppet this time around. It would break my budget and kill my savings for our impending relocation. As I wasn't planning on animating her either, I couldn't justify the cost, no matter how cool. So the goal was revised to be: make a detailed multimedia sculpture – similar to the Swamp Witch I made for Joan Kresek's Illustration Media class but better. I could use that for displays and for lighting reference and it'd still be cool. Huzzah for multitasking!

The Materials List. Most if not all of these materials were already on hand since Raul does a lot of sculpting and I also have a bit of a sewing/cross stitch hobby on the side. (Comes from being raised by a mob of quilters) Everything else came from local craft stores such as Michael's, JoAnn's, and Meiningers.
    1. Armature
      1. Paper to cover workspace and tape to hold it in place
        1. Armature and Jewelry wire      For building the skeleton of the armature
        2. Piers                                          For trimming and bending wires
        3. Epoxy Putty                              For solid, immobile areas
        4. Wood Base and screw/nut        For a stand
        5. Tin/Aluminum foil                   For building the bulk areas of the armature
        6.  Calipers                                     For measuring things

  1. Sculpt and Paint 
    1. Super Sculpy (The peach stuff)                   For sculpting itself
    2. Turpenoid                                                    For smoothing out the clay
    3. Various sculpting tools                                For shaping the clay and smoothing surface  
    4. Acrylic Paints – opaque, translucent, glimmers            For painting the baked sculpture
    5. Acrylic gloss medium                                                    For “wetting” eyes  
    6. Brushes and water cup/paper towels and Palette paper                     For using the paint

  1. Hair
    1. Embroidery floss – various colors               Primary hair material
    2. Glue Gun and glue sticks                             For securing various materials in place
    3. Jewelry wire                                                 For structuring curls of hair
    4. Scissors                                                        For snipping things
    5. Tweezers                                                      For precision placements 

  1. Costume
    1. Two varieties of a basic costume satin.        For the dress
    2. Two varieties of satin ribbons                      For the ribbon-y bits
    3. Tulle                                           For poofing up the skirt without adding too much weight
    4. Lace                                           For details
    5. More Embroidery floss – same color as lace            For hand-made lace
    6. Thread and Needle and Sewing Machine                 For sewing and fastening things
    7. Bristol board paper                                                   For “stiffening” the corset
    8. Seed Beads                                                               For pearl details
    9. Jewelry Charm (From Britt)                                     For broach detail
    10. Pins                                                                           For holding stuff together
    11. *Had I a functioning Iron I would have used that too, for pressing seams more neatly. That's a Christmas Hint - Mom or Nana - Practical and Fun. ;) 

  1. Prop
    1. Scrapbook paper                        For the paper fan
    2. Thin, squared dowel                  For the support of the paper fan
    3. Regular glue                              For fastening the fan together

Of course I had a separate area reserved for working so I didn't have to waste time packing up each night. And I moved the lamp from the bedroom to the studio for more/better light. I mentioned before that I don't have quite enough light in the studio area, but what I do get from windows is cold north light as opposed to the lamp's predominantly warm light. This gave me a good sense of how my colors were engaging each other in various scenarios – since she won't always be sitting up in the studio. The unofficial materials list looks like this:
      1. Large glass of Milk                        For drinking/hydration - very important
      2. Snack foods                                    For snacking
      3. Speakers                                         For listening to Raul's Spotify
      4. Raul                                                For immediate consultation
      5. Circle of Trust                                For ongoing feedback
      6. Cell Phone                                      For checking time and occasionally         
                                                                 communicating with various people
      7. Internet                                           For ongoing research and other such things

The Process.

I started with piecing together the development page so I wouldn't be guessing along the way in terms of what I wanted her to actually look like or what materials would be most practical. A good deal of the researching started here. I looked at everything I could think of that would pertain to her character and the sculpt and I looked at things that might not necessarily be related, but I stumbled into and found interesting anyways. (This is a habit I thank my Mom for and also why I know so much random crap) I like to think I have a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn't when I have a clear picture of what I want the outcome to be. There's always some room for trial and error, but most of the time I end up with satisfactory results within the first two construction attempts. I find it best to spend a lot of time in this phase so there are fewer frustrations and broken hearts (limbs) later.

When I was FINALLY happy with her (This wasn't the first iteration by any stretch of the imagination) and the costume I made an orthographic image to scale of the final model. She stands 9.5” tall, so a little larger than the proportions LAIKA used for Coraline, who I believe stood about 7”. Drawing the blueprint allowed me to trim wires consistently to the right lengths (Calipers are super useful doing that) and build up the appropriate amount of cushion with the foil so as not to over-due the Sculpy and have problems baking.

I referenced a video tutorial that Jordu Schell made for the sculpting techniques as well as pestering Raul for his advice. (He sculpts a LOT of dinosaurs/creatures and was actually working on something-that-looked-like-a-hammerhead-newt-whose-scientific-name-I-can't-remember-and-I-feel-his-eyes-judging-me-even-now while I was doing this project) The hands were super hard. I did them once. Hated them and tore them off. Tried again. Hated them and tore them off. And then I rewired the finger armatures and tried again. Passable. Even though I wrapped them all separately in foil before baking...two still stuck together – eliminating my hopes for giving her gloves, like in the drawing. I followed the baking directions on the box of Sculpy – about 15 min at 275F – removing a shelf in the oven so her head wouldn't be too close to the coils. Thankfully nothing burned.

From here I could have opted to utilize the already peachy tone of the Sculpy, but I've never been fond of that color so I built up layers of skin – used pretty much every color under the sun...except maybe yellow. When I was ready for the smaller details of the face I proceeded cautiously, using the glimmer stuff sparingly on her lips and eyelids and saving the gloss medium on her eyes for the last touch. I added her little pearly necklace at this point with a seed bead and embroidery floss and a TINY drop of glue.

Next came her hair, which was super fun. Ideas of using my own hair were fizzled by the glue gun which liked to melt and burn things without my permission. In the end there was probably more glue on the table than on the project due to the gun dripping so much which was a bit disappointing. Didn't burn my fingers nearly as much though. I started with her lower, larger curls which are wires wrapped in embroidery floss (Got the idea from ParaNorman special features when they were talking about making Neil's hair). They were the first glued on. I had to reposition one and accidentally cracked her neck, but it's a hairline deal that paint covered up. If I hadn't just told you, you probably wouldn't have noticed. Then came the hiding of those wire ends with some very careful arrangements of “roots” and such. After that came the top of her head and the side curls, equally hidden amongst “roots” and finally her bangs which wove back into her bun. It was an exercise in problem solving for sure and I was really thrilled with how it turned out. In the Swamp Witch I had to braid clay for her hair and roll a million coils which I am admittedly not great at even though it came out okay. Embroidery floss is much easier, lighter and cheaper. It also comes in all sorts of fun colors and it's like string cheese – one strand breaks into 6 – who doesn't love that?

Next came the layering challenge of her costume – the real tricky part. I started playing around with the Bristol for her corset first before realizing the skirt should probably come before that if I was going to hide those seams effectively. So the first thing was the underskirt. This involved cutting out the pieces for the skirt (I didn't make a mini pattern for this like I did the mini corset a while ago, I guesstimated it based on the last skirt I made for myself) and sewing those seams. Cutting out the lighter green rectangles for her bottom hem, gluing those in place. Cutting the ribbons, gluing them together and to the skirt. Sewing the back seam. Prepping the waist cinch. And the grand finale of that layer – hand stitching the smaller lace. I used a basic backstitch so I didn't have to be as concerned with loosing loops than if I used a regular forward stitch. Once done I dropped it over her head and cinched it in place. (I bunched up the tulle and stuck that underneath to keep her skirts poof-y, probably could have used something else, but I had it on hand and it's not like she's going to be walking around much)

Next came the upper skirt, which I started the same way as the lower skirt. Once I had it cinched in place I glued the lace on the bottom edge (should have done that sooner) and used a hand needle to pull up the gathers and tack the ribbons in place. The bow was probably the one place where I could have spent a little more time on to get something closer to what I had in the drawing.

Next I wrapped the Bristol corset in more fabric (GLUUUUE) and wrapped her up snugly, which hid the aforementioned skirt seams. Next time I'll give it a bit more clearance in the armpit region so fitting the corset will be easier. I also cinched some of the lace for the sleeves. It wasn't until I was writing this that I realized that I forgot part of her sleeve. That's what I get for stashing the reference picture before I finished. Won't do that again. After the sleeves, I very carefully made the collar piece – opting not to do the hand lace there since that wasn't exactly fun the first time nor did I think it ended up subtracting much from the design. The jewelry bit came from Brittany's vast collection of jewelry coolness (THANK YOU) and I nipped the top part off with a pliers before gluing it in place. The seed bead there I had to sew on by hand.

The fan was fun and a lot more trial and error. I have a LOT of fans around my apartment, but I still had to basically guess how to cut the appropriate shape out of paper. 4th try got it. Then I had to fold tiny folds back and forth. And then glue the dowels bits in place and all that to her hand. Probably better that the gloves didn't work out at this point.

Then all the photography! My little brother took those classes in high school, but I didn't have room for them and the animation/advertising...kinda wish I had taken at least one of them though. I set her up with a blank background and used every lamp I owned to try and get something workable. My little power shot camera wasn't the best – nothing like the SLRs I had access to at school – but it worked well enough for the time being. I'll see if I can get better pictures before this fall. In terms of final victories – she looks MUCH closer to the drawing than the Swamp Witch did to her drawing, so vast improvement with my 3D skills/my ability to translate 2D to 3D. Albeit a few tweaks I am very pleased. Reminds me a little of Red Nose Studio. Love his work.

The Conclusion. Just because the sculpt was done, didn't mean I could rest. I had been doing some doodles of Julia while building the sculpt and taking all the process pictures, so I spent another chunk of time cleaning those up, formatting pages, etc. so I could have those four pages ready to post with the finish. I still have one more to do – her “beauty shot” - one visual development illustration featuring her. I'm contemplating thumbnails, but I may wait to revisit her until after I'm further along with OniSan's mini project. Wouldn't be much of a portfolio to just have one character in it. lol

I think in total she took me about 15-20 hours, but that was spread out over several nights and about half a weekend due to the day job – patience was key on this, I tried really hard not to rush or get ahead of myself – which translated to me looking like I was just staring at her for hours I'm sure. Definitely think I leveled up though, so I guess it's time for a quick character sheet update. :)

If anybody thinks of something I forgot or wants to know something even more specific, please leave me a comment and I'll reply ASAP. I hope to take her "on tour" this fall *fingers crossed* so anyone heading to CTN can come check her out in person. 

Onwards to OniSan!! :D