October 21, 2010

More Halloween Reading

Another shot of fear-a-fying fiction, courtesy of my old Wacky Pack covered bookcase that I will someday bequeath to my son or daughter (and then immediately take back because I couldn't stand to part with it.) First up is Ghosts and Things (1969) a solid collection of scary tales with E. F. Benson's Caterpillars and The Night-Doings At "Deadmans" by Ambrose Beirce being the standouts. But the real draw for me was the the absolutely awesome Richard Powers cover, check it out (click on images to view full size.)

Next is one of my prize possessions, A first printing (1962) of Fritz Leiber's Shadows with Eyes. This collection was my introduction to Leiber, and he's been my favorite science fiction writer ever since. The first story, A Bit of the Dark World, is the best modern horror short story of the 20th century - period. I won't even try to describe it, but just picture guy's in 'Madmen' style suits and girls in Capri pants and scarves facing nameless cosmic horror.

And even though the cover looks like Richard Powers (and it's listed on some online booksellers as such), when I compare it to some of my other covers by him, it just doesn't have that loose energy and skewed composition that he pulls off with seemingly no effort. Plus it's not included in The Powers Compendium, the best online resource for Powers art I've found. Still, whoever did it, it's a great creepy piece of art that fits the tone of these stories. Hey, this is fun! Think I'll dig up a few more of these before Halloween.

October 7, 2010

The Monster Men

Let's get Halloween started with a little light reading. "The Monster Men" is an early work by that greatest of American storytellers, Edgar Rice Burroughs (first published as a pulp story in 1913, hardcover in 1929.) It takes my absolute favorite setting for a horror story, the mad scientist's laboratory, and ships it off to a deserted island (off the coast of Borneo) to give it some exotic appeal. I like to read this in conjunction with watching one of the Hemisphere 'Blood Island' pictures. There's just something about monsters in a tropical, Polynesian type setting that does it for me. Here's some cover scans from my two well read paperback editions. The first is by the legendary Frank Frazetta (click on images to view full size.)

The second is from a later Ace edition. I like 'em both. The monster face in this one is particularly gross.

Oh, before I forget, see that circle at the top right of this post with Uncle Creepy in the middle? That's this year's button that connects you to all the other blogs that are participating in the 'Countdown to Halloween.' Give 'em a look and keep checking back here for more gruesome goodness.

September 27, 2010

Haunted House Continued

Well, my house is starting to take shape, or at least the rock island it's sitting on. I've darkened the shadows to highlight all the cracks and crevices in the rock faces and turned the line settings off (leaving them on reveals all the triangles and geometric shapes that the rocks are composed of.) Also, I added a cloudy backdrop. It'll do for now but I'll look for a more dramatic one later on. (click images to view full size.)

I'll admit that the rocks have a simplistic, road runner cartoon quality to them. But since the source material is a cartoon, that's the direction I'm sorta taking with this. Besides, if I end up doing a paint over in Photoshop (like the graveyard scene last year) then I can add more detail there.

Here's a slight aerial view. I turned the water grey here because it was distracting (still stumped on how I'm going to pull off a decent ocean.) The rocks in and around the stairs took the most time. Other than the dead, twisted trees, I'm kinda wondering what other vegetation, if any, I should plant on this island.

Back at the boat dock, I found a weathered fence texture in sketchup that seems to work well. Also, the sketchy line style I've turned on brings out the cracks and grooves in the the boards. Unfortunately it also reveals the triangular edges of all the rocks which I'd rather not see. Grrr! Anyway, now comes the real fun, detailing the house itself! See ya next time.

September 18, 2010

Haunted House

Gettin' close to Halloween time again, so I thought I'd get a head start on a new scary scene. Second only to Jonny Quest, Scooby Doo was blessed with some of the best background paintings Hanna Barbara produced. I grabbed this off the secret funspot blog, and am using it as inspiration for a haunted house on an isolated rocky island (click on images to view full size.)

This was from the episode where Scooby was to inherit a share of some guy's fortune. But first, he and the gang had to spend a night in the old family mansion (complete with two green laughing phantoms.) I love how this pic combines the house on an island motif with the house built precariously close to the edge of a cliff. Below is the start of my design.

I traded the winding path for a stone staircase and tossed the gazebo. The island rocks are still just basic geometry, and will require a bit of carving to look all craggy and weathered. Also, still need to spooky up the house and add some twisted gnarled trees.

Here's the dilapidated boat dock (still needs a little detailing.) All those decaying boards and posts are actually stretched and distorted copies of just three components, which saves a lot of time. As always, the figure is just temporary to help with scale.

Here's another camera angle with different shadows (oops, forgot the sky.) Not sure if I'm going to use all the sketchup colors and textures or do a paint over in Photoshop. Either way, keep checking back as the haunted house slowly evolves into the terrifying abode of PURE LIVING EEEEVIL!

June 24, 2010

Future City

Sorry about the lack of posts lately, what with the outside world and all. Here's yet another piece that needs further attention. It's a concept for a book jacket for a science fiction anthology. I know it looks kind of cluttered, especially up at the top where the title info usually goes. Actually, I was going to end up using a small minimalist block font which would have freed it up to go somewhere else than plain old top and center. Anyway, it never happened but I still want to finish this. Among other things, I need to add some trees and park space in the town below and detail the background ship some more (click on image to view full size.)

May 4, 2010

Giant Robot Fight

Poor ol' Shogun Warrior was getting pretty lonesome without any sparring partners so I cobbled together a sort of standard issue giant robot villain (click on images to view full size.)

Nothing to in depth about this guy, I just knew I wanted something angular, boxy and functional to contrast the smooth curves and cylinders of our hero.

The narrow red cyclops eye is always in fashion among bad guys. As for the rest of him, I decided on a kind of weathered industrial look with welded plate steel and rusty iron accents, this was the best I could manage with the preset textures in SketchUp. Not too bad, but I think I can do a little better by importing my own.

Being an engine of destruction, we can assume he won't be doing a lot of flower picking. So instead of hands, he has these edged weapons. They're sort of like a Swiss Halberd or a poleaxe tip. I imagine they can rotate at high speed at the wrist, giving him the ability to drill through buildings and opponents.

Finally, even though I liked the buildings I got from the Google warehouse, I wasn't getting the deep shadows on them. This is because almost all of them are constructed from simple cubes at low res, in order to function well in a Google Earth fly-by. So here is a nice mid-century modern office building with all the ledges and window louvers for good shadows. That second story extension will be some kind of diner or steakhouse and will need a neon sign on its roof (I don't know why I obsess on trivial details like this.)

April 15, 2010

Shogun Warrior

Okay, I've really gone off on a tangent here. The flying car is lying around somewhere, but I just had to get this out of my system. Growing up in the late 70's there were only two kinds of kids, those who had Shogun Warriors and those who didn't. If you had a Shogun Warrior, then you were truly blessed and lived a life of perfect fulfillment. If you didn't, you wandered around lost in despair, cursing the hour of your birth (click on images to view full size.)

You see, Shogun Warriors were just the coolest, two-foot tall, brightly colored plastic robots any self respecting kid could ask for. Their fists were spring loaded and would launch right into your sister's face. Or some had little launching missiles for fingers, which today would certainly be banned as chocking hazards. And they had cool names like Raydeen, Combatra, Great Mazinger, and Doofy Red Robot with teeny axe. Raydeen (left and far right) was a favorite who had a cool King Tut style helmet design and a battle axe built into his arm. I also had the Godzilla that Mattel put out as part of this toy line and the epic battles between these towering titans would reduce a carefully constructed Lego metropolis to worthless rubble.

What got me started on this? A few weeks ago I was on Youtube and caught a trailer for a purposed Gaiking live-action film. I only remembered Gaiking as one of the lesser Shogun Warriors (see below),

but apparently every one of these robots has it's own story and cartoon in Japan (epi-center of all giant robot goodness.) Well, this trailer blew my mind right onto the floor. I grabbed a screen cap (below) which shows the scale the film makers envision. Man, I hope this film gets made!

After I saw this trailer, I knew I had to at least attempt to design my own Shogun Warrior. Below is the result.

I set myself some ground rules for this. First, keep the design fairly simple and don't load it up with tech (if you want tech, head over to Gundam.) Next, choose some appropriately garish colors. No one wants a beige 200 foot tall robot. Finally, remember that this could get turned into a toy franchise, so give it lots of sharp edges and protruding horns that are the hallmark of a safe 70's toy.

Here's a close up of his head. I should have put a little guy standing somewhere up there for scale. But take my word for it, this dude is big. I went through several horn designs before hitting on the ones he's sporting here. I figure the bigger and more outlandish the better.

Finally, here's a shot if him in action, ready to defend the city and cause huge amounts of collateral damage (enlarge this one to really get the detail.) I especially dig the axe blades on his forearms and legs which would be used to give karate chops and knee strikes, sending a robot monster straight to the junk yard. I raided the Google warehouse for all the buildings and cars (even the streetlights), and then just arranged a simple street scene. Then I got a city skyline from a photo sharing site and applied it as a texture to a curved backdrop and adjusted the shadow settings to look natural. I've even thought up a name for him, Razektor 7! I might drop the number, though. Or maybe Red Razektra! But then I'd have to paint him all red. Blech! Anyway, I'll tinker with this idea some more. See ya!

March 23, 2010

Mad Doctor Lab

GGRRRTT! Gear shift! The flying vehicle was giving me fits (layout of the kitchen, etc.), so I'm letting it sit for a little while. In the meantime, here's something I've had waiting in the bullpen, a sort of retro mad scientist lab (click on images to view full size.)

First, we have a lab assistant turning the crank on the table that will tilt our freshly created monster to an upright position. I still need to add arm and leg restraints to minimize the mauling of hapless minions.

I wanted the table apparatus to be the heaviest most antiquated looking piece in the room. As if it was the only thing left over after the lab had been retro-fitted with more modern equipment.

I've turned the shadow settings back on to highlight this lab table and collection of beakers and flasks. You can't tell but the curved glass tube is connected to the one Erlenmeyer flask with a rubber stopper. The flask itself is suspended on a support ring above the Bunsen burner. Still to add, a hose to connect the burner to the gas supply, a small bookshelf, and perhaps a chart of the periodic table on the wall.

Next is a bank of somewhat dated, but still functional looking computer stations. In the foreground is a combination microscope/spectrum analyzer. The drum above the little sine wave viewer thing is where a tissue sample (or something) is placed. There it is bombarded with lasers and super cooled gases (hence the canister to the rear.) While the operator can see the effects through the eyepiece or watch the raw data on the monitor.

beside it are two power calibration consoles. Notice the push lever next to the graduated color bar. The screens above monitor vital functions and let you know when to lay off the voltage, so as to not over cook your monster (I still need to add that suspended from the ceiling, laser beam doohickey that points right at the monster's head.)

See, here's what I mean by retro. I love these old tape reel memory storage cabinets. Since they're components, I might pop in a few more of 'em. Also, a similar cabinet with just random blinking lights would be essential.

Finally, here's the first scene again with shadow settings turned on for dramatic effect. Also, I've added a basic line "style" to give it a sort of inked comic panel look. The whole thing would still need some work in Photoshop. See you next time.

March 3, 2010

Still More Flying Car Interior

I've been reluctant to partition off any part of the space here. Mostly, because the transparent canopy doesn't really lend itself to it, also I would have preferred to let the furniture define the divisions of space. Anyway, I broke down and added a half-height wall towards the cockpit platform, that will be the logical place for a small entertainment center (click on images to view full size.)

But it's on the other side where the real action is, so to speak. The pilot's chair betrays the wood paneled section of the partition to be more than what it appears.

By pressing slightly anywhere near the top, the occupant engages silent precision motors that 1) slowly lower the desktop/keyboard 2) swing out a diagonal desk support and 3) raise the view screen up to eye level. Hopefully the arrows help it make sense.

And, Shazam! A foldaway computer/navigation terminal. Now junior can participate in his classes (by way of video conference) without distraction. But more importantly, someone can monitor the appropriate weather patterns, perform diagnostics of the various on board systems, etc. Presumably freeing the pilot to concentrate on the sky in front of him.

The keyboard is flush with the desktop and will be some kind of touch screen thing (like the small panels on the entrance hatch.) I'll need to find some cool tech interface thing to fill the screen.

February 24, 2010

More Flying Car Interior

Things are starting to shape up around here. Using elements of the sofa, I've cobbled together two matching chairs set on circular swivel bases. Between them is a side table/storage cabinet. Speaking of storage, I worked some small cabinets into the frame of the entrance way, complete with sliding glass doors. I've sort of followed the guidelines of designing nautical cabins, where every effort is made to prevent injury by securing and containing loose items in case of a hard turn or capsizing. (click on images to view full size.)

The doofus on the sofa is my lame attempt at "futuristic" fashion, because in the future we will all be wearing cheesy "Logan's Run" style jumpsuits. However, in front of him is my floating coffee table which turned out way cooler than I had anticipated.

A comment by a fellow blogger got me thinking. If anti-gravity is ever developed, it won't just be limited to transportation. It'll be applied across the board, conceivably replacing the wheel in even the most mundane circumstances. Here, it replaces table legs. The two glass inserts bookend a wooden frame section. The four dots in the top are the hardware that connects the tabletop to the "gravity cancelator" (patent pending) suspended below.

Another view from underneath. The cancelator device contains an internal gyroscope which maintains a level surface and compensates for the weight of an object placed on the tabletop. This does NOT mean you can stand on it or try to use it to get away from Biff's great grandson. Hellooooo, McFly!!

February 14, 2010

Flying Car Interior

Here's my first wild stab at furnishing this flying vehicle. Again, I'm assuming a future where manufacturing methods have improved and new light weight, yet durable materials have been developed to allow a piece like this to function properly. It's an L shaped sofa with a definite 60's "Mod" influence (click on images to view full size.)

I knew I wanted something with open spaces and nice organic curves and this seems to fit the bill pretty well. By the way, don't get attached to any of these colors. That's supposed to be wood grain on the walls and entry hatch. The carpet is just thrown down to set off the sofa. Below is the sofa by itself with shadows turned off to give a sense of how the curves work.

And finally, another view from a different angle. Notice the C shaped curve of the base. That's what I mean about developing new materials. Whatever that's made of will need to have enormous tensile strength to be so thin and still support both the seat components and occupants.

The nice part is, now that I've made this, I'll be able to chop up the armrests to make a pair of matching chairs and, hopefully this will turn into a swinging little lounge area. See ya soon.

February 8, 2010

Another Flying Car Update

Although it sure doesn't feel like it, I guess work has progressed enough to warrant a visit to the flying vehicle (click on images to view full size.) Here's an outside shot showing the addition of a transparent domed canopy and towards the rear, two access hatches (turns out you need some way to get in and out of this thing.)

Next, an inside view of the entry hatch. In true sci-fi fashion, the hatch slides open horizontally into the bulky looking cabinet also containing a small control pad and recessed view screen. The two rectangular panel doors could provide storage and access to the electronics and mechanics of the hatch.

Here's an exterior close-up of the hatch in a half open position. The extreme angled look of the hatch was just by trying to fit it to the contours of the vehicle and maintain some kind of aerodynamic shape. It wasn't intentional, but I think it has a nifty, early 80's "Buck Rogers" vibe.

Finally, a close-up of the touch screen control panel. Not trying to get too in-depth here, I just want to give a sense of functionality with a simple user interface. I'll probably do something similar with the view screen above it.

January 18, 2010

Flying car update

Quick update showing the (not so rapid) progress of my flying vehicle. The angled support struts are there to give some sense of an underlying framework and also to segment that needless expanse of glass. You can't tell, but I've also tapered the cockpit section a bit. (Click on images to view full size.)

Interior shot (with the shadow settings off) to show the steps and railing of the elevated cockpit section. Nothing too fancy.

Finally, a rear shot showing the downward sweeping window section. Again, all that uninterrupted window seems impractical. The trick is to decide where to make the divisions without sacrificing the natural flow of the design. Still a long way to go on this.

January 11, 2010

Flying Vehicle

It's time I accepted a harsh reality. I can't count on science to give me the things it promised me when I was a kid. For a while I was mad at science, but then it acted all ashamed and looked at me through those thick, taped-up glasses and then we hugged and it promised not to do it again. Glad that's behind us.

Below is the initial stage for a flying passenger vehicle, levitated and propelled by some anti-gravity system (whenever you feel like it, science.) Just the cockpit, so far. I'm still not totally sure which direction I want to go, but I'm leaning towards a sort of weekend getaway thing with a seating area, kitchen, bar, simple sleeping quarters, etc. Basically, a flying RV about the size of a single-wide mobile home. (Click on images to view full size.)

You'll notice the control panel floating in space. I haven't decided on how best to anchor it to the floor. Here's an opposite view. Another task for science is to devise some new material to make possible this giant curved windshield without compromising safety (sooner or later, someone's gonna hit a bird.)

Finally, here's quick shot from inside. The astute viewer will notice the lounge chair from my Christmas card. Just chop the legs off, add a swivel base and headrest and you got yourself a groovy pilot's seat. Keep checking back for updates.

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.