December 24, 2009

Christmas e-card

Well here it is, Christmas morning at a groovy retro pad (click on image to view full size.) The only two things I pulled out of the Google warehouse were the fireplace grill (out of laziness), and the famous Isamu Noguchi coffee table. Noguchi was an icon, not just of mid-century modern furniture design, but sculpture and landscape architecture as well.

The painting above the mantle was a big pain. The rectangular, light wood frame was easy enough to make, but images that I tried to fit in it ended up stretched and distorted. The solution was to find a large hi-rez scan and center the frame over a portion of it that I thought made a good composition. If it sorta looks like scuba divers, that's because it's a concept painting by the legendary Frank McCarthy, for the climactic underwater spear gun battle from the James Bond movie "Thunderball." I found it at a blog called 007 illustrated and figured it was sufficiently hip for this room. As a final touch, I added a little steam from the coffee mug (or is it hot chocolate?) And that's all folks, Merry Christmas!

December 18, 2009

Christmas card take 3

Couldn't find a chair I liked in the Google warehouse so I made my own. Just as well, I would've felt weird using some other guy's model. Not that this chair is any masterpiece, but I think it's got nice curves and it fits the scene better. I imagine it being made out white acrylic or some high impact plastic with the light brown of the seat representing leather upholstering. The recessed area on the side could have a choice of inlays (I opted of the dark wood.) Outside the window, you can catch a glimpse of the winter scene I picked from a free photo sharing site. (Click on image to view full size.)

December 15, 2009

Christmas card take 2

Alright, now we're getting serious. I've knocked out the living room and corner window and the fireplace turned out pretty much how I pictured it. In the left corner is a sorta Vladimir Kagan-ish looking lounge chair that I grabbed out of the Google warehouse. It's a nice model but the curves aren't quite as sweeping and organic as they should be. It might have to do, because I still have to load up the tree with more ornaments, cram some presents under it, hang some kind of art above the mantel, swag some garland around, place a side/coffee table and area rug and find some way to get a winter scene outside the window (Whew!) Well, back at it. (click on image to view full size.)

December 11, 2009

Christmas card take 1

Man! Where have I been? Trying to work the kinks out of an idea for a Christmas e-card, that's where. As usual, this is just the bare bones of a concept for a cozy little living room scene. When I was a kid, my Grandmother had an awesome aluminium tree, complete with color wheel. So this scene will be all the way retro, with a (hopefully) cool flagstone fireplace and corner window, Danish modern chairs, etc. Forget those turquoise and salmon walls, that's just to set the tree off for now. What gave me such a fit was trying to replicate (in 3-D) that distinct fuzziness and alien geometry of those old fake trees. It's not quite there yet so keep checking back (click on image to view full size.)

November 22, 2009

Galactus Head

Check it out! Straight from the pages of "Fantastic Four" comes Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. Just his head so far, but I did my research and tried to stay true to Jack Kirby's original version from Fantastic Four #48-50. I gave him three inter-changeable lower face components so you could alter his mood, as needed. Below is the default "aloof scowl" that all puny mortals receive as they tremble in his cosmic presence (click on the images to view full size.)

Next, I gave him a standard talking mouth. If you browse the Google warehouse, you'll see some amazingly realistic human faces that people have created. In comparison, these faces are just a few simple angles, but, by taking the minimalism road, I think I did a better job of emulating (in 3D) Kirby's style, and even a hint of Joe Sinnott's bold inking style.

Finally, here's a teeth gritting mad face, for when he's giving the cosmic backhand to the Sphinx, In-Betweener, or some other loser. This didn't take as long as I thought. The piping around the face caused the most frustration, But I lucked out with the helmet antennas on the first few attempts. Let me know what you think.

November 19, 2009

Cosmic Ray Lab

Here's another science (fiction?) based concept that I've been kinda reluctant to post because it's not as instantly recognizable as the Astronomy lab I showed you back in September, and I've been struggling with how to explain it clearly. Below is an aerial view of a laboratory complex built around a huge device that collects and contains cosmic rays for study and experimentation. The vertical tower houses the giant radiation proof containment chamber and the doohickey on the roof is what harnesses the mysterious cosmic rays and focuses them down into the chamber (click on the images to view full size.)

The ground floor entrance shows the base of the cylinder (striped red & white) that leads up to the chamber. On the right, is a network of pipes connected to storage tanks that hold the super-cooled liquids (or whatever) that, when pumped up into the containment apparatus, somehow enables the scientists to safely study the volatile cosmic rays.

What I'm trying to convey here is the sense of a building totally devoted to a single purpose, to the elimination of almost all architectural flourishes. If you've ever been to Kennedy Space Center and gazed up at the vast monolith that is the Vehicle Assembly Building, you'll know what I'm talking about. Still, I felt it shouldn't be all hard angles, so I curved the support columns on the walkway canopy which leads out to a pleasant little seating area with a reflection pool and a kitchy futuristic sculpture.

Here's another view with different shadow settings.

Back at the lab, you can see the massive cylinder of the containment chamber surrounded by several levels of laboratory space, all interconnected by stairs and walkways. You might think the yellow safety railings took forever. Actually, each tapered window section is a component in SketchUp that contains the different levels, stairs and rails. After I made and detailed one, I simply copied, rotated and placed it on the two adjoining faces of the tower. Also, any changes I made to one component, automatically showed up on the other two. Neat, huh?

Here's a few views from inside. You'll notice that, like the astronomy lab, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of action going on here. Well, it'll be a while before I get around to furnishing this space with tables and chairs, computer stations, and all sorts of cool science paraphernalia.

Up on the roof, is the giant rotating dingus that harvests the enigmatic cosmic rays. I have absolutely no scientific basis for this thing, I just wanted it to look cool and functional. At the base is an elevated circular walkway and technical shack for monitoring and maintaining the rotating mechanism.

Here's another view showing the base and a small stair access. If I want to do this right, I'll have to figure out a logical placement of AC units, elevator machinery, etc. Finally, right up against the laughably inefficient safety railing, I've placed an idiot.

Well, I hope I've managed to make sense of these images and, at least, give an overall impression of what I was trying to accomplish with this. See you next time.

November 17, 2009

Graveyard Scene

Finally! Here's that spooky graveyard scene that I wanted to have done by Halloween. Oh well, that's what I get for setting myself a deadline. The grass is what ate up the most clock. I created about a dozen custom Photoshop brushes for the grass, when I could of done fine with maybe six or seven( just need to budget my time better.) But overall, I'm pleased with the results. This is my first real attempt at doing a paint-over of Sketchup, and it lets me know that I'll have a fairly good chance finalizing my concepts the way I visualise them (click on the image to view 3/4 and then on the magnify thing to view full size.)

October 30, 2009

The Alien Factor

This one popped up, every now and then, on the Saturday afternoon creature feature. Don Dohler's "The Alien Factor" (1976) was shot around Baltimore and, judging by the on-screen results, cost around $80.00. I'm not knocking it, there's a sense of honest, blue collar craftsmanship to these old, low budget schlock fests that is painfully absent from today's direct to DVD or made for the Sci-fi network sleeping pills. The artwork below is actually from the old VHS sleeve that always caught my eye at the video store near my house (I remember it had a green sticker, meaning it was suitable for all ages.)

But believe me, the box art only hints at all the chocolaty goodness at the center of this movie. Wooden acting, garbled sound, poor lighting, cheap effects; it's all there, kids. And best of all, a menagerie of some of the goofiest monsters this side of Sid & Marty Krofft.

This guy is my favorite, It's some kind of Bigfoot-ish creature with extra long legs. On film, it looks like fake fur wrapped around a pair of Romper Stompers.

Then there's this dreamboat from the planet of the skinless people (actually, the reveal of this monster was a pretty effective sequence. It had me hiding behind the La-Z-boy.)

I know it's a generational thing, but I will always champion films like this (Legend of Boggy Creek, Shriek of the Mutilated) against the wretched studio blandness that crowds the shelves at Best Buy. Because, despite their limitations, They were labours of love from genuine film fans and they always entertained.

October 21, 2009

A Little Elaboration

Just a quick follow up that last movie post. Partly because I didn't know how to fit this awesome poster into it.

Also, seeing this film prompted me to re-read the short story that (loosely) inspired it, H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out Of Space." To those unfamiliar with his work, Lovecraft's stories mostly have to do with people glimpsing indescribable horrors from other dimensions that end up robbing them of their sanity. Well, while "indescribable" is great for sparking the imagination of the reader, it's never been much help to filmmakers. In the book, a meteor crashes on a small New England farm and a malignant, vaporous force torments the family while radiating a color "without a place among the known tints of Earth."

Good luck to the poor DP (director of photography) trying to pull that out his box of lens filters. "Die Monster Die!" keeps the meteor angle, but resorts to plain ol' radiation that causes plants to grow huge and animals to mutate into cheap puppets. Don't get me wrong, it's still a lot of fun but you get the idea, it wasn't just budget limitations that caused the story alteration. Even today, where directors are able to indulge themselves by coating the screen with ones and zeros, Lovecraft remains, for the most part, unsuccessfully adapted (Stuart Gordon's "Re-animator" and "From Beyond" being two noticeable exceptions.) That's a good thing. There are some things that exist only on the printed page, and to depict them at all on celluloid would rob them of their power to shock and fascinate us. Told ya, I'd rant occasionally.

October 19, 2009

Horror Movie Misc.

Finally got a spell of cool weather here in the sunshine state. Hope it lasts but I'm not holding my breath. Anyway, it was the perfect opportunity to dig through the DVDs and get some Wendy's chili cheese fries. I'm certain most Horror movie fans have their own ritual viewing practices around Halloween, but this year I decided to be a little less deliberate in my choices. Nothing to obscure, just a few old gems.

First up was Hammer film's "The Reptile"(1966), and if you can somehow convince one of today's zero attention span kids to sit still through the second act, the monster close-up scene will 100% guaranteed jolt them right over the back of the couch! That monster stands the test of time. Also, is it just me, or does Jennifer Daniels look more than a little like Carol Cleveland from Monty Python?

Next at bat was "Die Monster Die!" (1965) with Boris Karloff (looking especially grumpy) and the always dependable Nick Adams. I miss Nick. He yelled his lines with conviction but underneath there was always a distinct likability and easy demeanor to his characters. Great color and atmosphere in this, plus a few honest scares.

Finally, if I have a Halloween tradition, It's "Dawn of the Dead"(1978). But, I love and respect this movie so much that I've steered away from it for the past few years, in an attempt to keep it fresh in my mind (whatever that means.) But, what can you do. It just wouldn't be Halloween without helicopter zombie.

October 14, 2009

Quick Spaceship Thing

Just a quick post to remind everyone (including me) what the stated purpose of the blog is. This was an idea for some kind of planet size, Death Star-ish spaceship. The black background makes it easier to cut and paste in Photoshop.

All the surface detail is done by push/pulling small squares and rectangles. It's fun but it can get tedious. the trick is to find an angle you like, get the shadow settings down and then just detail those areas that are noticeably affected by the lights and shadows. Anyway, it's another half realized concept that needs to be taken to some kind of fruition.

October 12, 2009

Those Cracked Monsters

A few scans from a 1978 Cracked collectors' edtion. The splash panel is signed "McCartney" and a quick glance at Wikipedia revealed that this was how legendary pin-up/good girl artist Bill ward signed a lot of his work for Cracked. If so, COOL! (Click on images to enlarge.)

I know John Severin was their go to artist for the majority of the mags' run, and indeed, this issue contains two articles by him (one covered by Neato Coolville a few Halloweens back.) But to me, Ward's style, with his loose but confident line work and heavy blacks, was especially suited to monster stuff. And check out the letters on the Transylvanian TV header. Man, what I wouldn't give to have a whole font style of that.

I remember this got passed around my neighborhood (being traded for comics, hot wheels, etc.) I ended up with it but it was in sad shape with no cover. Luckily, I came across a nice copy in a local comic shop, a while ago, and snagged it. Enjoy!

October 8, 2009

Horror Hotel

Yeah, yeah, the blog's supposed to be about SketchUp. So sue me, I'm having too much fun with these Halloween posts. Here's another old chestnut that cost me a few nights sleep as a kid. Set in Massachusetts, but shot in England, "Horror Hotel"(1960) stars Christopher Lee and a cast of seasoned Brits doing halfway acceptable American accents.

The story follows Nan Barlowe (cutie-patootie Venetia Stevenson), a college student studying witchcraft. Prof. Driscoll (Lee) suggests that, to really get the facts for her term paper, she should take a trip to the town of Whitewood, were a witch burning actually took place. The town is remote and rarely visited, so the best way for her to get there is to sit behind the wheel of a stationary car while stagehands rock it back and forth and roll scenery past her. Along the way, she stops to pick up creepy hitchhiker Jethrow Keane (Valentine Dyall, 1963's The Haunting.)

Finally, she arrives at the adjoining sound stage (or the eerie, fog shrouded town of Whitewood, whichever one helps you.)

There, she starts nosing around, pestering the locals about witchcraft...

..and well, things go downhill for her pretty quick. I won't give away anymore but it's full of satanic rituals, cobwebs, secret passages, hip jazz, "Psycho" style plot twists and more fog than some movies that actually have the word "fog" in the title. And I know I poked fun a little at the confined-to-sound stage production, but it really helps give the film a sense of claustrophobia and showcases the deep focus camera work of the great Desmond Dickinson. Plus, the sets are terrific. From the tribal masks on Lee's classroom wall to the decaying church facade and graveyard. Finally, and this is important, the whole cast looks like they're having fun doing this, even Lee. That's the element that lifts this one above most of the budget minded studio horror that was being churned out back then, on both sides of the Atlantic.

October 4, 2009

Scariest Bigfoot Ever!

Or at least to 11 year old me. But all my neighborhood friends who saw this episode of "Fantasy Island" agreed that the Bigfoot they showed at the end was way creepier then all the documentaries we had seen on Saturday afternoon. I think this was actually a 1st or 2nd season rerun when I saw it. Anyway, Peter Graves goes to Fantasy Island where Mr. Roarke informs him that (whadda ya know!) they've got Bigfoot there too.

In his efforts to capture one, we get the occasional glimpse of what appears to be the standard man in fur suit. Needless to say, after the triumph that was Andre the Giant in Six Million Dollar Man, this was all pretty underwhelming. But then in the climax, as Pete is hanging from the edge of a cliff, Bigfoot shows up to save him and we get a nice closeup of this...

GAAHH!! I think part of it was that I was expecting the same old "Planet of the Apes" style makeup that we were all used to from the documentaries (In Search Of..., Mysterious Monsters, etc.) or maybe it's that bulging, dead looking eye, but this about scared the Salisbury steak out of me. Immediately my phone rings, and I vividly remember the conversation.

Me: "Hello?"

My friend, Kenny: "Dude, did you just see that?"

Me: "I saw it. Holy Crap!"

Kenny: "It made me spit milk on my hand. UN-cool!"

I guess you never know what's gonna stick with you, but I'm glad this did. See you next time.

October 1, 2009

Countdown to Halloween

All this month, I'll be participating in "Countdown to Halloween." Scroll down under my links to other blogs and you'll notice a big orange button with the Mummy on it. That takes you to the Countdown to Halloween homepage where you can find links to all the other blogs that will be participating. We'll all be posting lots of groovy ghoulie stuff to help get everyone psyched about Halloween.

To get things started, here's the cover to NIGHTMARE no. 15 from 1973 (cover art by Ken Kelly.) Apparently there was some confusion as to who was Dracula. Thankfully, this cover sets the record straight and puts all our minds at ease (this works best if you say the cover caption out loud to yourself and adopt an aristocratic tone.)

September 29, 2009

Graveyard Update

A quick update to show the progress on my graveyard scene. Pretty much done, as far as SketchUp goes. Now to see how I can mess it up in Photoshop. (Click on image to view full size.)

September 25, 2009


Coming up on Halloween, my absolute, favorite holiday (which is saying something as there's no big meal involved!) I'll probably post some appropriately creepy web stuff as I find it. But first, here's a few cracked and weathered tombstones I did a while ago when I was contemplating doing my own scary monster comic. I still plan on getting around to that. (Click on images to view full size.)

You're saying "So what?" Well, all I had to do was make, and detail, a few like these. Then, after generating a simple hilly terrain section, I was able to copy and place as many as needed to populate this spooky graveyard scene. The twisted wrought iron fence sections helped to add cool shadows. The hard part, so far, was getting the atmosphere right by minutely adjusting the shadow and fog settings. I'm thinking of adding some sort of crypt or mausoleum on the right side to balance it out. Once again, I'll send it to Photoshop to add details like bats, dead grass, etc.

I'm determined to get this done before Halloween.

September 22, 2009


Monorail utilizing some kind of magnetic levitation or... something, I don't know. I got it floating about a foot above the inward curving track. I've always loved the sleekness of Disney's cockpit cars and wanted something that would give the operator a wide field of view. Hence, the curved glass dome/windshield. But that alone seemed implausible, so I added those small tubular safety bar things that follow the lines of the dome (click on images to view full size.)

A closer view of the cockpit. Behind the two pilot's chairs is a small sofa, coffee table and opposite, a single seat and wall mounted fire extinguisher.

This one's a little confusing but behind the cockpit (through the half open, glass pocket door) is a small galley with coffee maker, microwave and mini fridge.

Behind all that is a small passenger cabin. I haven't added too many people yet. These are the basic 3D figures from the Google warehouse, but look how they're posed. Like uptight jerks.

An exterior view of the passenger cars showing the glass end viewport sections. Don't ask me how the cars are connected or what keeps them from bashing into each other. The magnets do it, okay?

Back inside the passenger car, here's the glass end viewport, cabinet with emergency equipment and fire extinguisher. One thing I haven't figured out yet is cabin lights. But since Sketchup only provides one light source (the sun), I couldn't use them for shadows anyway (speaking of shadows, notice how I lucked out with the light settings.)

Finally, here's one from ground level. Those boring angled support columns are temporary, until I figure out something better.

September 21, 2009

Astro Lab cont.

A few more views before bed. First, here's one from inside the entrance on the second floor.

And one inside the dome, at the base of dish.

Finally, an opposite view of the covered walkway. That whole courtyard below seems really bare. The tough part is going to be populating it with benches, fountains, people, etc. without cluttering it up.

Astro Lab

To give you the general idea of what I'm doing, here are a few pics of a work in progress. It's some kind of Astronomy lab campus with the huge dish and dome w/curved windows. Notice the lack of trees and foliage at this stage. 3D trees, even simple low polygon ones, bog down my poor 'ol computer. I put them, and the people, on separate layers that I can turn on and off to speed things up. The trees are really just to help me with shadows. When I've taken this as far as I can in Sketchup, I'll save certain angles to Photoshop and paint over them to make 2D renders.

Here's the curved entrance. It still needs planters, benches, maybe some tables and chairs on the balcony and some kind of fountain/sculpture thing.

I added this quaint little optical observatory to give the place a sense of history and to help emphasize the scale of the big dish.

The observatory leads to the elevated covered walkway and staircase. Again, needs lots of shrubs, planters, benches, etc. Where does the walkway lead to? I might connect it to a monorail terminal I'm designing (which I'll post soon.) But I might just be lazy and extend it off frame and let the viewers use their imagination.

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.