Wednesday, August 29, 2018

1542 - Bespoke Worlds: Krypton I

The fictional Planet Krypton is famous as the birthplace of Superman.  Krypton is unstable and is destroyed in the very first panel of Action Comics #1.  For a long time, the action in Superman comics took place on Earth.  In the 1930's-era newspaper comic strip, Superman's home planet was given a rudimentary back story.  In the 1950's and 60's, Superman and other characters were able to travel back in time to visit Krypton before its destruction, and in these comics we see a highly romanticized planet of adventure and doom.  From these details we are presented with the map of Krypton, a lush garden world where the inhabitants are highly evolved, heavily scientific, and culturally divided into New World and Old World hemispheres.  War or some other cataclysm destroys the green surface of the planet and at least one of its moons.  

This is the point where we get to the "Richard Donner" version of Krypton, the angular and sterile world of Marlon Brando's Kal-El in the 1978 Superman movie.  This was also my plan for my globe of Krypton, since we get some good views of the planet in the movie.  However, my friend Earl convinced me to go with the comic book version which like Mongo is colourful and filled with exotic locations.  

The first step is laying out the continents.  Learning from Mongo, for Krypton I used much more water to allow for easier working of the clay.  Moist Das clay is off-white, giving Krypton that Richard Donner look, which I think has appeal.  

As Das dries, it becomes whiter.  I will also prime all of the continents with white gesso to make certain the acrylic paint goes on properly.  Since I used a lot of water (you can see it dripping off the bottom of the globe), it will take a while for the clay to dry fully. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

1541 - 1-2-3 Ginger Beer

For hot summer days, I made home-made ginger beer. 

Here's how:

You need glass bottles with built-in stoppers.  For each 750 ml - 1 l  bottle you need:

  1. water to fill the bottle
  2. 1 ½ inch of ginger root
  3.  ½ lemon
  4. 1 tsp sugar
  5.   tsp yeast
Bring the water to a boil, using as much water as you have bottles to fill.  Simply multiply the dry ingredients by how many bottles you are making.

Use a food processor or a grater to grind the ginger into a pulp.  Juice the lemon.  Put the ginger, sugar, and lemon juice into the water.  Turn down the water and simmer for 15 minutes.  Your kitchen will smell wonderful!  Allow the mixture to cool.  

Put the yeast in your bottle. Using a strainer, pour the mixture into the bottle, trying to strain out as much of the solids as you can.  Don't seal the bottle with the stopper!  Instead, place the stopper gently in the hole and cover the top of the bottle loosely with plastic cling wrap.  

Place the bottle someplace cool and dark for three days: 1-2-3.  A closet works well.  After three days, you can stop the bottle properly and store it in your fridge. If there is sludge in your drink, after three days it will have settled to the bottom of the bottle. 

The ginger beer is very strong with sweet lemon and tart ginger.  It's slightly fermented, so it has some kick.  It definitely quenches your thirst.  A little vodka turns it into a great evening in the back yard.   


Friday, August 24, 2018

1540 - Bespoke Worlds: Mongo VI

The Planet Mongo is nearly finished.  I've added the labels, which was a big deal.  

So now with Mongo essentially complete, I can look back and see where things need to be improved.  Everything seems to hinge on the quality of the labels, yet the labels turned out differently than I had expected.  

I elected to use waterslide decals, which are similar to those temporary tattoos that kids like.  You print the decal, wet it, and then the wet decal glues itself to the target surface.  The decals that I chose seem to glue themselves right way, not leaving any chance to alter the positioning once stuck.  That made the work quite a bit harder.

Plan A was to print the decals in colour with my Canon bubblejet.  When I did that, the colours all ran off the decals, despite sealing them with acrylic fixative.   

Plan B was to print the decals with my HP laserprinter.  This worked, but I can only print the type in black.  

Plan C was to hand-paint the lettering, but the globe is small and it was super finicky to transfer the text (I shade the back of the text with chalk and then trace out the lettering so that the chalk is transferred to the surface of the globe).  It worked, but it was hard to control the chalk.  

So, Plan D was to lighten up some parts of the globe so that the lettering would at least be visible if not readable.  

If you look closely at the globe, you can see that the decals are shiny where I was expecting them to be matte.  The final step of the globe will be to varnish it.  This might be difficult since varnish should dry flat, and that the curvature of the globe will likely make it drip..  However, the varnish should cover the gloss of the decals with more gloss.  

Lessons learned for Krypton, my next planet:  I won't use dark colours, so that I can use black-lettered text.  I'll also use more acrylic medium so that I can make finer lines with the paint.  That will also affect gloss, so the final test will be to see how well these globes take to being varnished.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

1539 - Bespoke Worlds: Mongo V

Less is more, perhaps.  I need to remember that this project is experimental, and with trial and error there are bound to be mistakes.  

On the plus end of the scale, I restored the colour of the ocean, adding some nice cartoony swirls.  Oceans should always swirl on globes, I think.  On the minus end of things I forgot that globes never dry flat, so a fair amount of the wet ocean migrated from the northern hemisphere onto the southern continents where it pooled and dried all over Tropica, The Great Mongo Desert and Naquk.  I spent the day repairing the flood. 

My next intention was to line the continents with gold, which you can see above.  I'm used to using the gold pigment from Golden Acyrlics (a bit of co-incidence in the name), but at the art store I got sweet-talked into buying Liquitex.  Liquitex is cheaper than Golden by a few dollars, and it looks better.  Unfortunately, I discovered that it doesn't flow better.  I must have done something wrong because the paint would form gelatinous lumps when thinned.  The thin paint was too thin, and the lumps were too thick albeit they were usable.  I should have remembered to use acrylic medium which is the translucent liquid part of acrylic paint that binds the pigment.  Medium is cheap and easy to find at any art store. 

Painting with thick gold paint yielded thick lines.  The effect is unsubtle, especially on these small globes.  On a larger globe, there would be no problem.  I spent some of the day thinning out the more obvious lines, but I'm not going to go over the entire globe with this fix.    

The next step, again highly experimental, will be to create labels to put text on the globe.  I really hope it works! 


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

1538 - Bespoke Worlds: Mongo IV

Pushing hard, I filled in most of the continental detail in one day.  I feel I still have to blend and balance the colours a little before I add the final details.  Also, I had a good colour for the ocean but now I am unsatisfied with it, so I will work on that was well.  

From here you can see the blood red westerly coastline of Mingo Bay, future home of Mingo City, nestled between the two mountain ranges.  To the east are the lands ruled by Flash Gordon, the city of Syk and the endless tunnels of the cave badlands.  To the far east, you can see the dreaded Fire Plains and the glow of Mongo's fearsome volcanoes.  


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

1537 - Bespoke Worlds: Mongo III

Careful layering of acrylic paint yields the wine-dark Sea Of Mystery on the Planet Mongo.  I'm starting with the darkest colours as a base, and then I will layer lighter colours on top.  

The continents really stand out since they are bright white.  It's a dramatic effect, but I will have to make the continents the same darkness as the water. 

Monday, August 13, 2018

1536 - The Mystery Of The Cosmos

The Cosmos.

We gaze upon its infinite splendour.  A star glitters, a celestial diamond.  Behind that, a thousand million more stars.  Behind them a thousand million galaxies of stars.

This image is not that.  No, it's my monthly entry for Ungood Art Day here on JSVB.  Every thirteenth day of the month, I publish some foolish part of my art where I am (usually) trying hard to create something good and instead it goes sideways and become ungood instead.

Rubbing off the excess parts of the model of the Planet Mongo I am constructing yielded fractal patterns of dust on 600-grit sandpaper.   You can read the mystery of the universe in this picture, or see that I am padding my post count.  Either way, the macrocosm conspires to make us wiser.  

Sunday, August 12, 2018

1535 - Colour-gram For Mongo

I made a very basic colour palette for the Planet Mongo. I'll use this as a guide for painting the globe. 


Saturday, August 11, 2018

1534 - Bespoke Worlds: Mongo II

I've used modelling clay to form the continents on the Planet Mongo.  Slartibartfast was right: it is fun to do the fiddly bits on the fjords! 

I returned the globe to its stand because I was afraid I had made the mountains too lumpy for the globe to turn.  It was true, the volcanoes of Tropica got stuck on the arm of the stand.  

A word on the clay I used.  I picked Das, which is non-toxic air-cured modelling clay.  Trivia: I had classes in University with the son of the inventor of Das clay.  The family was very wealthy from the sales of Das - anybody in the Arts knows that the real money is in selling art supplies - so their son was able to take advantage of the best instruction.  I recall him as being very conscientious and generous, a genuine nice guy.  

I'm used to working with Super Sculpey - see my homemade Neconomicon on JSVB Post #1294.  However, Sculpey has some drawbacks: it needs heat to cure and turpentine to thin.  The heat would melt the globe which would be okay if I was modelling the Klingon moon Praxis.  Turpentine is a toxic irritant.  Das, on the other hand, is not toxic and it uses water for thinning.  

I was worried that the continents would not stick to the globe.  Das on its own is a little tacky, but it isn't sticky.  Slathering the globe with water and wetting the pieces of Das cases it to thin a little, and when Das is thin it's very sticky.  Wet Das also binds strongly to whatever it dries to, mostly my fingers and modelling tools.  So, Das is messier than Sculpey, but I simply cleaned my fingers and tools with a wet rag.  

Das has a peculiar sticky sliminess when thinned and worked, so it's not exactly like clay.  After it dries for an hour or so, it becomes malleable and very clay-like.  If Das dries too quickly, it will crack, so I kept the globe in a container with a moist paper towel to make sure the dry-cure went as slowly and evenly as possible.  Das does shrink as it dries, but my continents were small and thin enough that the shrinkage was barely noticeable.  Proper curing takes around 48 hours.  

I should have taken pictures of the sculpting session.  My hands were too gunked up to work the camera, though.  Das goes on light grey and dries to ivory white. 

So, back to the mountains.  Since they were too tall, I had to sand them down.  Cured Das takes to sandpaper very well, so it wasn't difficult to abrade the mountains and coastlines down to a manageable level.  The picture above is before the sanding, so the finished globe looks quite a bit less lumpy. 


Thursday, August 9, 2018

1533 - Cities On The Edge Of My Finger

I had some grandiose ideas for manufacturing The City Of The Hawkmen, which is a flying city on the fictional Planet Mongo of the Flash Gordon universe.  (Argo City on the planet Krypton also flies).  

I had some glitter buttons that I thought I could shape into a miniature domed city.  Unfortunately, the buttons were far too big and my efforts to whittle them down just made them ugly.  If you peer inside the largest "dome", you can maybe see my efforts to create buildings inside.   I thought of injecting a little pigment to make the buildings stand out. I stopped myself, since the button was too big anyways.

I'm settling on using a simple pinhead to depict the glory of the City Of The Hawkmen. i doubt Brian Blessed would approve if the size of Vultan's kingdom, but then does Brian Blessed have a bespoke globe of the Planet Mongo?

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

1532 - Bespoke Worlds: Mongo I

This is the beginning of my run at creating a custom-made globe of the fictional Planet Mongo from the Flash Gordon series. I've blocked out the continents to scale.  

 I've discovered something interesting about the map of Mongo.  I don't know its source, so I have no idea who to credit, but I suspect it was drawn for a comic book fifty or sixty years ago.  Whoever drew the flat map took care that if the drawing was rolled into a cylinder as I have done,  that the details on the edges of the map would line up!  Rolling the map into a cylinder made it easier for me to find lines of longitude to make certain the continents on the globe would be of the correct size and placement relative to each other. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

1531 - Again: Do You Like Our Owl?

The barred owl has become a regular visitor to your back yard.  

Friday, August 3, 2018

1530 - Operation Slartibartfast II

Here are three globes primed for painting:


When I discovered that gesso binds to plastic, I was very excited.  I am experienced with painting acrylic on gesso, so by priming with gesso I can use non-toxic paint which is a big deal for me. 

So what is gesso?  It's essentially thin paintable glue mixed with white chalk or gypsum.  It dries to a hard matte surface that is ideal for acrylic paint.   Gesso is white, but it can be purchased in colours or tinted by mixing in the acrylic paint of your choice.  I like white because it will make the colours I paint over top of it bright.  

It took around a day to prime these globes.  I made several mistakes as I did this.  Perhaps the biggest mistake was to prime the globes before putting on the continents.  I plan on making the continents out of modelling clay.   If I had attached the continents first then I could have primed the whole thing...?  Well, maybe not, since sanding the continents would be difficult and if they fell off anyways I'd be stuck re-priming the broken parts.  

Another mistake was using masking tape to cover the coin slot (these globes were originally banks). The tape was thin and it allowed itself to be primed with gesso, which was what I wanted, but as the gesso dried the paint sucked up some of the moisture and wrinkled.  

Finally, cheap globes make for cheap art.  There's a big seam in the plastic around the equator of the globe; you can see that in the photo above on the globe to the farthest right.  I painted six layers of gesso over top to try to smooth the seam, and it helped a little.  I should have taken another day to do six more layers.

After the gesso was completely dry, I used 100, 300, 600, and 800 grit sandpapers to grind out the impurities in the surface of the gesso and to make it smooth.  On a religious icon painted on a flat board, you can allow the gesso to dry flat.   On a globe, there are no flat surfaces, so the gesso tends to creep towards gravity as it dries, making ridges.  More sanding fun there.  

 In the picture above, I point to some of the ridges in the gesso.  I could have added more coats of primer, but I think I will simply drop a continent on that spot to cover it.  

Speaking of continents, my next step is to draw on the globe to block out where the continents will go.  I'll save fabricating the continents for another day as company is coming over to visit and I doubt they want to watch me swear at my art project.  


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

1529 - Operation: Slartibartfast I

Inspired by my friend Earl, I am starting a new art project.  I am calling it Operation Slartibartfast.  Slartibartfast was a character in the whimsical, unpredictable Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy series of books where it was revealed he fabricated custom-made planets.  

I hit upon the idea of making custom-made globes.  People do craft these things, but most of them are representations of Earth.  Earl suggested I make fictional worlds, so I will make the planet Mongo from Flash Gordon, the planet Krypton from Superman, and the Death Star from Star Wars.  

I didn't want to make a globe from scratch, so I hunted around in goodwill stores until I found some used, discarded globes for sale.  

A cheap globe around the size of a softball.

This globe is handsome in black and silver, but it doesn't bear up to close inspection.  It's the kind of decoration best kept in some corner where people don't go.  For one thing, the entire globe is plastic, and is quite cheap.  For another, the details aren't accurate.  

Je peux voir ma maison d'ici...
This globe is also printed in French, and unusual to find in a store in British Columbia.  Finally, and I didn't discover this until I returned home, the globe is a coin bank.  Notice the slot in the upper Pacific Ocean - either the globe is a bank or there's a strip mine from Alaska to Kamchatka. 

He's got the whoo-oole world in his hand...  

On the plus side, since the globe is a bank, it's fairly easy to remove from the cheap stand.  The coin plug on the bottom opens to reveal an aperture perhaps wide enough to stuff a battery-operated LED light.  If I drill tiny careful holes into the globe, I could illuminate it from within which would be really nice for the Death Star.  

The coin slot is undesirable, though.  I am covering it over with masking tape and hoping for the best.  The next step is to cover the globe in gesso, which I will demonstrate next JSVB post.