August 24, 2012


We're back with a King of the Monsters update! Maybe a little tweaking of the teeth and hands and some general cleanup, but for the most part he's ready to go. And actually he's only about 9 stories high (100' 6" or so.) Sounds kind of under achieving by monster standards, but sizing him up even to 200' just seemed overkill next to the scale of the figures and vehicles. Plus, in the films, Eiji Tsuburaya often preferred to scale down his monsters because it enabled him and his crew to build larger, more detailed miniatures. Here, big G is threatening the old Orlando Utilities Commission office which I nabbed from the Google warehouse (click on images for pic viewer.)

I mean, look at his foot next to the default scale figure. This was important because I'm planning on staging a scene with some half demolished and damaged buildings and it will add to the realism if there can be some clearly defined fleeing civilians among the debris.

Here's the rear view. Still working on a better texture for the back plates. Also, I might make another set of the large ones (just copy and paste) and figure out a "glow" for when he's using his radioactive breath. Well, let me know what you think and check back soon as Godzilla gives a prehistoric pounding to some unlucky skyline!

August 6, 2012


Dang it! Got sidetracked again. But I think you'll appreciate it once you see what the result is. But first, an explanation. For no real reason, I was fooling around with the preset textures included in Sketchup. Just seeing how some of the patterns repeat on an object and how I could manipulate them. So I made this simple barrel shape and applied one of the stone textures and found that, if you rotate it vertically, it lays out over a curved surface in an interesting way (click on images to go to pic viewer.)

But wait! That looks like...something. Hold on, let me just drag the color wheel over to the grey and darken it just a bit. Holy crap! That's Godzilla skin! Well, there was only one thing for it, really.

And below is where we're at so far. Off to the right are my reference pics. If he looks more than a little muppety, well... think back to "Monster Zero" or "Destroy All Monsters." When the tone of the films had already shifted to kid oriented and they started making him look less reptilian and menacing. That's the Godzilla I grew up with. 

Anyway, the teeth will help give him some "grrrr" back. And, even though this started out as a simple color test, that segmented tail may be the single most challenging thing I've modeled to date! But I can't wait to get started on the back plates and other details. Let me know what you think and see ya soon!

June 10, 2012

Some THINGS change...

Well, I couldn't justify my labors on one comic book character while neglecting another. So before I really got involved with Ultron (which I don't advise, socially or professionally), I knew that Ben Grimm would need to be brought to some state of completion. Let's see how he's doing. (click on images to go to picture viewer thing.)

And here he is, poised and ready for action in some kind of training facility specifically designed by Reed Richards to test the Thing's legendary strength and combat experience. As expected, the hands and feet cost me small fragments of sanity. In fact, I'm still not done with the feet but I'll know better how to fix them when I put the figure in more extreme poses.

The hands, however, turned out nice and the fingers are pretty easy to pose. That's good because I'll need to build up a library of interchangeable hand components (pointing, grabbing, etc.) that will just pop on to the end of the wrist. This model has been a real labor of love for me and, I gotta say, I'm proud of the way it turned out. But now he needs a bad guy to clobber and Ultron just drew the short straw!

May 21, 2012


Inspired by the Avengers movie (well done, Mr. Whedon), I'm taking a swing at their greatest villain, that monstrous, mechanized megalomaniac, Ultron the robot!

That hideous jack-o-lantern face, the fusion energy boiling in his fixed mouth, his gleaming indestructible adamantium body...Man! I hope they find a way to make him the villain in a Marvel movie soon. Anyway, we'll start with just the head and see how it goes (click on images to go to the picture viewer window.)

Wrong! Meet Ultron's country cousin, Clemtron! You see, I started by pulling a basic head shape from a simple sphere. My mistake was scalloping out the cheeks (using the intersect tool) which made the mouth narrow too much at the chin. And just for kicks, I'm adding some classic Avengers covers to the background. No extra charge!

Well, this is better but still not there. Closer to the way George Perez used to draw him. But the mouth seems to yawn too much and, as a whole, it seems too alien. By the way, to do that plasma effect in the mouth, just pick one of the Sketchup water textures and drag the color wheel all the way into the red. Bingo!

Now this is what I'm talking about! I started with a whole new head and really opened up the mouth. Also, the eye holes are arched to give them more menace and not just simple triangles. This, to me, is more like John Buscema's version from earlier issues. Best of all, I found a Photoshop plug-in that generates pretty good Kirby Krackle! Now the fires of fusion really seem to be churning inside his gaping maw!

Finally, here's a quick top view. I don't remember the head antenna being that elaborate but I think they look cool, as does the band of circular depressions. I think I'll continue on this for a bit and see how the whole figure turns out. See ya soon!

May 16, 2012

Haunted House Paint Job

Well, alrighty. Finally got around to slapping some proper color and textures on everything. Here's the the first scene I composed for comparison. You might notice I added some railing to the tower balcony and dismissed the 3D scale figures that were loitering around (click on images to go to picture viewer.)

Above is a closer view of the front entrance showing the revamped second story window. Hopefully you can see the tattered curtains (which turned out pretty nifty, if I do say so myself) and cracked window panes. Overall, I'm still pleased with the cobwebs but you can see that some of them catch the light a little too prominently (SketchUp's light settings are a little more blunt than true rendering software would be.)

Here's a look back toward the dead tree clinging to the cliff face. That rock texture really fails close up. I haven't looked too hard but there's supposed to be some good texture packs for free download. Finally, I've creaked open the front door a little to beckon any unwary travelers. Don't worry, I am nowhere near done with this model. But I will take a brief side trip back to superhero town. Check back to see who shows up. 

April 26, 2012

Creepy Cobwebs?

Hey, all. Just a quick progress report on the haunted house. I threw a basic rust texture on the entrance lantern  to make it standout but the main reason we're here is to evaluate these cobwebs. And I know what you're thinking, why don't I just wait till the paint over in Photoshop to add them? Well, I don't know! Part of me is just compelled to work these issues out in 3D. Plus, what if this becomes a game level or something? (As a side note, I would kill to play a Tomb Raider style Scooby Doo game!) Anyway, here's the first view (as usual, click on the images to view full size.)

These actually weren't that hard. They're just 2D planes, basically rectangles that I attached at different angles to the columns and ceiling, then just scalloped the sides and punched holes with the arc tool. Then I painted them with a stone texture but dropped the transparency to about 45%. The trick seems to be in the overlapping.

Here's from the opposite side. The big question is do they read like cobwebs? I mean, when it comes time to put tattered curtains in the windows this'll be the way to go. But my first impulse is that I like 'em. Plus, I'm really not going for photo-realism here so, if they're a little cartoon-y, that's better. As always, let me know what you think. see ya soon!

March 22, 2012

Brief Haunted House Update

Well, I've been away a long time but maybe this, all too brief, post will get me back on track to finishing some of these projects. Below is a view of my method of adding clapboard siding to the exterior of the house. since the structure is basically symmetrical, I can make these sections as components. Then I just flip and "mirror" to apply them to the opposite side of the house. But take care, any weathering or detailing you do will duplicate on the other components and could show up as a repeat pattern when the whole model is in view.

Below is the precarious front porch entrance. I've broken out a portion of the stone wall and will twist the iron fence in a similar manner to the stairs below.

I know this doesn't seem like a lot of progress but it'll have to do for now. Suffice it to say if there's an elderly person in your life, do your best to make sure they keep their mind active. Next up, I'm tinkering with a way to make (hopefully) appropriately spooky cobwebs, in 3D!

May 19, 2011

A Little someTHING... tide you over. Here's a quick Thing update. The hamsters that turn the wheels in this 'ol computer of mine were complaining about the file size of this model, so I ported the head over to its own folder. The body is a bit of a challenge. My only concession (so far) to modern Thing design is giving him a defined chest section. This is to help give the torso some flexibility when it comes time to pose the model. Also, I've taken another stab at adding a texture in Photoshop. A little too much impact if you ask me, but that's why we're experimenting here (click on image to view full size.)

April 30, 2011

And Another Thing...

A quick update on my Thing model. Making progress on the face but it's not quite there yet. The eyes look good ( had trouble getting them the right size so he didn't look too beady eyed.) The mouth is a separate component (see my Galactus post from 2009) and I'll make a couple different ones to help give him a range of expressions. Also, need to make a couple of brow ridges for a mad look, surprise, etc.

These are also a test of adding some subtle Photoshop filters to enhance the rocky texture. Again, needs some work. And that mammoth cigar is just a quick attempt but don't worry, Ben Grimm is not complete without his trademark stogie.

Well, it's getting there. Keep checking back!

April 27, 2011

The Real Thing, Baby!

Keeping with the whole Jack Kirby/superhero vibe, I've decided to tackle ol' bashful blue-eyes himself, Ben Grimm - the Thing. I won't even go into why he's simply one of the greatest, most memorable characters in the history of American literature (seriously.) Instead, let's just stick with the visuals and remind ourselves why Kirby was "The King of Comics."

Here's a panel from Fantastic Four #85 that I'm using for reference. I've quickly colored in Reed Richards and Ben to emphasize the scale and bodily proportions of the Thing beside those of a normal, albeit athletic person. This panel also displays where Kirby got it right and a lot of today's artists don't. Look how even though Ben's arms and legs are massive compared to Reed's, the overall impression of the character is one of compactness. Also, his waist is not that much wider than normal, which seems to give him a low center of gravity. Too many current pencilers make the mistake of expanding the torso to ridiculous extremes, or make him top heavy by inflating the arms to the same size as the chest (click on images to view full size.)

Below is a sort of test arm I did a while back just to see if I could recreate in 3D the Thing's distinctive rocky exterior. It came out good enough to encourage me to give the whole figure a try (although you can see how adding a sketchup line 'style' is a little hit-and-miss with complex surfaces like this.).

And this is where we're at, so far. I'm trying not to exaggerate his proportions too much and I deepened the cracks between the rock plates to help with the shadows. Not too shabby.

If he looks deep in thought, it's 'cause he's thinking about where his eyes are and how hard it is to make them look natural when placed in a 3D head. I'm sure the hands and feet will provide me equal frustration. Let me know what you think and keep checking back.

April 1, 2011

The Celestials

Somewhere on a hidden plateau, high in the Andes Mountains, stands mighty Arishem, leader of the fourth Celestial host. 2000 feet tall and clad in strange extra-terrestrial armor, he looms as silent and immovable as the mountains around him. Yet he is aware of all that occurs in the realm of insignificant humans below him. After 50 years he will render his judgement. And on that day Earth will live...or die!

At least that's the way artist/writer Jack Kirby envisioned it back in 1976 when he hitched a ride on that ol' cosmic gravy train Chariots of the Gods? and produced The Eternals for Marvel comics. Originally supposed to take place outside Marvel continuity (but shoehorned in by writer Roy Thomas in later Thor books), the story was a bit uneven and slow but let's face it, you don't go to a Sinatra concert for the witty banter. And in this book, the King of comics did not disappoint. Every issue had at least two splash pages of  Kirby's dynamic art. And the Celestials themselves are some of my all time favorite creations of his. Each one distinct and enigmatic, and pulled out of Kirby's cosmic well of imagination that never seemed to dry up.

Below is a page from issue #12 that I used as a starting point for my design (click on images to view full size.)

And here's the result of my labours. As a backdrop, I pulled a two page spread out of issue #2 depicting the landing of the Celestials ship. It's got a nice dose of  "Kirby-Crackle" (those distinctive dots he used to depict huge amounts of energy being unleashed) and some really quality inks by John Verpoorten. I also grabbed an ancient temple out of the Google warehouse just to show the scale of these titanic beings.

Up close on his helmet, and you can see the array of weird cylindrical lights and the side antenna thing. The fact that there's barely anything that even hints at a face was what grabbed me as a kid. Kind of like Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Here's a dramatic low angle shot to show the chest emblem (or whatever.) I tried to keep all this close to Kirby's style and embellish it as little as possible. The only place I veered off was the neck because -well- the comic never showed that this guy even had one.

Down at the waist is his inter-galactic belt buckle. The cosmic significance of the symbol is too far beyond the understanding of our feeble human minds to even risk contemplating.

And finally the hands. Believe it or not, these gave me the most headaches. To try and emulate those distinctive, square Kirby chiclet fingers was more of a pain than I ever thought possible. But now that I've made 'em (and posable as well), I can use them over again in other designs. Which is good because I'm dying to try another Celestial or different comic book character down the road.

If this has even come close to making you interested in the amazing visual style of Jack Kirby, Marvel put out The Eternals Omnibus collecting issues 1-19 back in 2006. And don't forget Neil Gaimen and John Romita Jr's revisit Eternals. See ya soon, true believer!   

February 17, 2011

Haunted House Update

Because you demanded it (actually only one person was kind of wondering about it), here's some fresh haunted house action. Finally getting around to the house itself with the addition of windows and front entrance. And yes, that's the twisted, gnarled tree from the 2009 graveyard scene. I'll distort it a little more to fit in here but it's nice to have some ready made props that I can just drop in (click on images to view full size.)

Halfway up the staircase is a small landing with some rusted out wrought iron railing. The missing section is bent out to look like something (or someone) took the plunge right through it.

At the top is the main entrance overhang. The stone wall in front will also get some railings in a similar state of decay.

Quick close-up of the hanging lantern. Not sure how I'm going to properly weather and age this to get that 'decrepit' look.

Finally, here's a look at the tower with added dormers and railings on the top lookout. I'll twist and age all that too.

Well, still got a ways to go here. The roof needs worn and missing shingles. The sides need some crooked and weathered clapboards. Basically the whole thing needs to get more haunted. But I'll keep at it and keep you updated.
Creative Commons License
SketchUp/Screw-up by Timothy P. Butler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.