Monthly Archives: January 2011

Erato and Melpomene

Let me quickly tell you about today’s projects…

On the 36″x48″ piece of plywood that I primed a few days ago I took some time to redraw the sketch that I drew late at night on the second evening I spent at the hospital. That was probably my most despondent evening, and I kid you not that I spent an hour looking around the room contemplating the ways in which I could kill myself between the hourly checks to make sure you’re breathing that the nurses did. However, rather than choosing to fashion a rope out of a shower curtain and stringing it over the top of the closet door I sketched out a take on the classic — and painted more than just about anything else — “Descent From The Cross” meme. Details still have to be added but you get the idea, and I think it’s clear that it’s a departure from the cartoonish stuff I’ve spent the last few years painting.

By the way, you may notice the pictures below the painting. I’ve started using DAZ Studio (sort of like a free version of Poser, a 3D design suite optimized for characters) as an alternative to human models or those little wooden artist’s dolls. Especially to any tattoo artists reading this, I do recommend checking it out because it can really streamline your creative process. Here’s a link to the page where you can download it (and don’t forget to download some also free characters to pose). Not to become an advertisement, but you can also use this program to create animations.

On to project two…

Quite a while back I bought a couple of cheap sound-activated animated electroluminescent shirts from Deal Extreme (and they actually sell the animated panels for $6.80, including free international shipping). In addition to not really being into gimmick clothing, the panel isn’t particularly comfortable to wear, so the shirts got no use other than wearing one once to Nefarious’s school to amuse her friends. But to avoid the panel going to waste I excised it from the shirt, built a quick frame out of an old scrap board, and put it all together. It sits next to my stereo’s speakers now and lights up to the music.

Yes, I faked that, but it’s an accurate simulacrum.

I’ve been pushing myself to be active but I think I’m burning out a little so probably tomorrow will be a far less active day as I recharge. Even if the doctors can get my pain under control (and so far I’ve got faith that they will, even though I’m far from there yet), I will continue to get worse and worse as time goes by and feel a little like a replicant from Blade Runner ["I want more life, fucker!"] — as if I’m living under the shadow of some planned or unavoidable obsolescence.

You were made as well as we could make you.
    But not to last.
The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly, Roy. Look at you. You’re the prodigal son. You’re quite a prize!
    I’ve done questionable things.
Also extraordinary things. Revel in your time.

So like Roy I do my best to revel in my time, and I’d like to believe there are a few extraordinary experiences in my memories as well, and yes, questionable things also. Anyway, I know that I’m never going to be able to do things like get a job (how convenient you may be thinking, since I do so hate jobs), but I am still trying to squeeze in as many experiences and moments of creation as possible.

Oh, and I’ve been reading the Bible to Nefarious lately. Not the King James of course, but all the Bible stories, starting with Genesis (boy, God really comes off as an asshole if you’re not reading it under the curse of the blind admiration of religion). We’re only starting Exodus now, but to my surprise she’s totally loving it and is quite glued to the stories. If you’re wondering why I’m reading them and working to give her a complete understanding of Christian mythology, it’s not just because one should know one’s enemy. It’s because our history in the West is dominated by Christianity, and when you’re ignorant of that faith, your understanding of history is stripped of many insights that are only possible when you understand the superstitions and beliefs of the people who lived that history. It’s a real shame that schools have been scrubbed of Bible class, and I worry it’s resulted in people who grow up with a shallower grasp of our culture. When we’re done the Jewish/Christian Bible we’ll likely read the Koran next, and explore other faiths from around the world as well. I also hope that by giving her this foundation she’ll appreciate the richness of religious literature without falling prey to the control it attempts to exert on the world.

Anyway, I think I’ll go read a bit right now before I make supper. Yesterday I made a lemon ginger shrimp stir fry — using those immense two ounce “gigantico” shrimp that Loblaws sells — with a little of every veggie in the house and udon noodles (super yum), and tonight it’ll be something similar although today’s protein is nice plump sea scallops. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

Further Waxwork and Molds

I am working on a couple new candle designs, and for the first one, which I finished last night, I made a really nice quality mold that I’m very proud of and I know will last for as long as I wish it to. In the pictures below, starting at the left, you can see what I mean.

The first photo shows the blue silicone mold at the top. I made it by taking the sculpted master (which you can see bottom center) and temporarily burying it half deep in clay. The reason I did this was to make a two part mold. I also pressed divets into this clay, and then covered it and the exposed half of the master with silicone. After that cured, I removed the clay (but left the master and first silicone in place) and then poured the second half of the silicone mold. After that cured, I trimmed it a little, and then built a hard removable shell for each half to give it strength. I made it out of clay, but plaster would have worked just as well. Finally, and you can’t see this in the pictures, I also drilled a hole in the bottom of the mold to hold the wick, and also in the part of the hard shell that extends across the other end of the candle.

In the second photo you can see the mold assembled with the wick mounted, ready to be filled with wax. In the third photo I’ve done just that, and accidentally spilled a little bit of it. I probably didn’t have to, but I still gave the mold a quick wrap of duct tape to hold it all together nicely. The mold fits perfectly though — it’s probably the nicest one I’ve made so far (following some tips from Adam Savage in an article on mold-making he wrote for MAKE).

Below you can see the final product in the first two pictures. If you’re wondering why there are some flecks of blue in the beeswax, well, that’s a little embarrassing. It’s just because after drilling the hole in the bottom of the mold I didn’t spend enough time washing it out, and a little silicone dust must have still been in there. Still, it turned out nicely with a lot of detail, and more importantly, there isn’t a seam anywhere to be seen, meaning that the mold is perfectly fitted and I won’t have to do any touch ups after taking it out. In the third picture, you can see the next candle in this series that I’m working on, a “brain” with some eyes on top. The way I’ve been making the masters is by roughing them out in Sculpey, baking them, and then carving and finishing them with the Dremel — often with a nylon brush, which works beautifully to carve the polymer clay.

Finally, I have some mixed feelings about the skull candles and the way I’ve mounted the wicks. I finally did a test burn on one of them, and it seems to me that I need to move the wicks forward a little because they burn through the back too fast, causing the skull to puke its brains out the back in some perverse wax suicide. It looks nice though with a warm red glow shining from its eyes. Anyway, you can see below the work it needs:

That said, I suspect that most people will treat the skull candles as decorative. Not that this is any excuse for not getting it perfect. Work continues!

Having had a week and a half locked up in a small hospital ward with very little to do — really, a ping pong academy without the ping pong tables — has filled me with a real lust to work on all my projects. Admittedly I did take forty-five minutes to play video games today, and I spent a little time browsing the news, but I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I think tomorrow morning I’ll do some carving on the trike frame and continue getting it prepped for fiberglassing.

Anyway, it’s late, and I loathe wasting my time repeating my day on the computer, so I am not going to proofread any of them. If there are any typos that could be fatal, please warn me. Good night moon.

Our latest videogames

I got it ages ago — before going into the hospital anyway — but haven’t found the time to play it until recently, but now that I have, I have been having fun with the “pro” version of Rock Band. I have the keyboard, which is a one octave piano controller, as well as the guitar controller, which has a zillion buttons — six (one per string) for every fret, as well as six strings to strum or pick. Unlike earlier versions of music games (perhaps with the exception of the drum controllers), playing these instruments is getting very close to “the real thing”. When you play synth parts on the keyboard, you are literally playing every note in the song, on the actual correct keys of course — I think you can actually use any MIDI keyboard, not just the one that the game comes with. So if you can play the keyboard in the game you can play the songs on a piano. The guitar is the same. You have to finger and strum or pick all of the notes. Playing on the buttons is a little different than a real guitar, but it’s surprisingly close. The game can “dumb down” songs a little, but once you get up to the full levels, again, you really are playing the songs.

So far I’m just playing the simple stuff — today I only got as far as managing to play I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones without being booed off stage — but it’s a lot of fun. I think that they’re coming out with a true guitar controller (with real strings, that makes real sound) which might be even more enjoyable, assuming that this keeps my attention. As fun as it is, it’s also devilishly hard (and that’s coming from someone who can beat all the music games on Expert, and used to play guitar in a Guns’N'Roses cover band), so it might become “work” at some point.

I’m quite impressed with the current iteration of the Rock Band franchise as a training tool — at this point, you can quite realistically use the game to teach yourself to play a few intruments (to say nothing of being able to use the singing elements of the game to do vocal training). I also suspect that for most kids (and adults) that the learning curve is much faster with the games than with a traditional teacher, to say nothing of being radically cheaper!

At the urging of the girls of the house, I recently picked up a Move for the PS3 (it’s Playstation’s improved knockoff of the Wii controller). It’s pretty cool, and Nefarious is enjoying being sucked into the virtual world of EyePet with her pet monkey “Tiny” that she’s been training. It’s quite cute, especially when it mimics singing that it hears. That said, I am super jealous of XBox owners and the Kinect, which really seems to be a generational jump in interface design.

Other than that I got Lego Harry Potter working for Caitlin’s DS, but I don’t have a jiggling picture to go with that. She’s also been playing the sports game that comes with the Move, and tells me that the archery game is pretty good.