Dec 18, 2009

New Zealand- Final Thoughts

Well, here we are. A time long talked, planned, and prepared for. Only now it is actually here. I'm leaving New Zealand after 3 rather eventful years this weekend.

Like any other period in my life it has had its ups and its downs. This past year it has been becoming clear though I've overstayed the place. Which is just fine. I had many great times, and admittedly some really miserable ones. This is just life. I leave with many fantastic memories and have lots of good friends staying behind as an excuse to return one day.

I thought I try to summarize for both myself and everyone else my New Zealand experience with a BALANCED tally of my experiences of the country... I will do this through a list of for everything thing I will miss countering it with something I will not (currently if I were to just do this without balance in mind the will NOTs would win by a clear majority)

I will miss all the great friends I've made over here. In particular Clare, Paul and Laura, the Twitch, and my horde of Germans (who are too plentiful to list individually!).

I will not miss driving on New Zealand roads. Mostly due to Kiwis absolute inability to drive properly. They are hands down the worst drivers on the the planet (and I'm taking into account the stereotypical Asian)!

I will miss the actual truly "Beautiful Green New Zealand" with its many awesome beaches, forests, mountains, and natural parks.

I will not miss the propaganda and lying about "Beautiful Green New Zealand", a country that doesn't recylce, pumps its sewage into the ocean, has litter and garbage scattered on the street of even its smallest villages.

I will miss New Zealand winters, as it never dropped below zero for very long and only snowed one or two days of the year.

I will not miss New Zealand winters. Despite the aforementioned warmth of winter compared to the Great White North, the Kiwis don't insulate their homes, and as of such your living or bed room is only 1 or 2 degrees warmer then outside. This can be quite unpleasant when sitting down and trying to relax.

I will miss our current house. Especially the fact that the roof is just a giant glass covered balcony

I will not miss our house in the winter. Again it was the same temperature as outside OR colder!

I will miss living by the ocean and the many beautiful beaches of Dunedin

I will not miss being taunted by the ocean, in that you couldn't really go swimming as it was too cold, and despite buying a wet suit, having to still avoid it due to the cities sewage washing back into shore often throughout the year!

I will miss the road trips around Dunedin. 60% of all the coolest stuff in New Zealand was within a days drive (granted this could be a full on 14 hours round trip) of my house.

I will not miss the Kiwi drivers I'd have to watch out for on these road trips. Yes a repeat, but I really can not emphasis how bad at driving these people are.

I will miss how friendly and awesome the world travellers I encountered were. Be they from outside of NZ or be it a travelled Kiwi.

I will not miss the hostility and xenophobia of the none travelled Kiwis. They seriously put Americans to the test for most insular and nationalistic western country.

I will miss the food, at least the fresh ingredient foods like diary products and seafood.

I will not miss the Kiwi food. As a culture the Kiwis don't believe in spices, and eat very bland meat and potatoes style dishes.

I will miss my work. Especially the self employed system of substitute teaching down here. I was an educational mercenary and had to carve out my living amongst the dozens of independent skools in town (NZ did away with centralized skool boards in the 1980's, so they are all self contained entities for my purposes).

I will not miss my work, in how during slow times I was not guaranteed work and had to endure not getting paid for long stretches...

I will miss all the exotic wildlife down here

I will not miss the locals none caring or outright hostility to the wild. Not all Kiwis were like this mind you, but many who lived in the rural areas were the animals were to be found were shocking.

I will miss New Zealand, for the reasons above.

I will not miss New Zealand, again for all the reasons above.

So with this list done and out of the way, I leap into the heart of moving on the eve of the X-Mas holidays. As a result posts from me here and elsewhere (Traumador in particular) may be slow for a little while.

All the best to you this season (be it winter or summer), and we'll catch you on the flip side...

Dec 12, 2009

Last art post for a while

We're very close to T-Minus 1 week from the leaving New Zealand forever!

As of such things start happening here quick, fast, and hard... To quote my favourite teenage space opera (which one is it, you geeks out there?)

Meaning there won't be much time for either making my art and/or posting about it. The goal after this post is that I get my 4-5 pieces done for ART Evolved (a series set in the same time and place... one of the advantages of using CG), so I don't have to worry about working on them immediately after heading over to Australia.

Here is your slight sneak peak of what they're going to be...

I got Kaiwhekea skeletoned, rigged, and roaring to go.

My next big obstacle is creating some prey for him.

There is a chance Dr. Fordyce will be interested in using this fellow now that I've got it. So that could be exciting.

The biggest news of all is that my Squalodon passed its final inspection by the good doctor, and has only a few very minor tweaks. Essentially I got a 90% (with the chin area being the only absolutely major concern). More on this story coming to ART Evolved in my Flukes series.
He'll be making an appearance in Jan along with the Kaiwhekea (among other critters!) at ART Evolved. Hopefully in even more public venues later in 2010!
As I've been taking a lot of Traum related photos for his own big finale with NZ, I was inspired to start work on somethings for his future here too...
Thought you'd seen the end of his interactions with Mythology and Maori Legends... Think again!
This is the start of one of several new Mythological inspired denizens to be appearing on the Chronicles next year...
Note it is too scale!
I'm also trying to make sure I keep Traum's current adventure going and conclude able by Feb... as there is a HUGE surprise in store for you all then!

The next two Dinosaurs are presents as it were for two old and dear friends of mine, who were gracious enough to put up with my insanity and appear in Traum in the next few posts.

Why and how they are presents will make sense with the post themselves.

The question I have for you all, can anyone successful guess what types of Dinosaurs these two are? I'll give you one key clue, they are both native to Alberta...

Dec 8, 2009

Head in the Game

Having shown my Kaiwhekea to Dr. Fordyce I was interested to hear that there was no definitive stance on exactly how this animal's skull was supposed to go together in life.

That's not to say we don't know what its skull looked like. Kaiwhekea is known from a fairly complete skeleton (in fact the MOST complete of any known marine vertebrate from New Zealand), but it is badly crushed. So the skull is distorted, and as of such it leaves a few questions as to how it would have been pre-burial.

This was my initial version. You'll notice the nearly 200 needle teeth. They were a "lot" of fun to put in... especially as you'll see, I ended up having to place them all a few times *groan*
As he was unconvinced one way or the other as to what the animal might have looked like, Dr. Fordyce did not venture much of an opinion on the skull (though the neck needs a bit of work).

This is the Kaiwhekea skull (courtesy of the University of Otago's page on the animal). Despite its crushed nature, people with some knowledge of typical Plesiosaur skulls will see how this animal differs greatly from other Cretaceous Plesiosaurs. However the details are lost, and as of such I was trying to recreate this skull with as few "details" as I could.
This ran in the face of the one common restoration of Kaiwhekea out there on Wikipedia, by Dmitry Bogdanov. You'll notice there is a lot more definition and "detailing" in the forehead and chin then is present in the skull. Additionally the mouth has a discernible U slope under the eye, again not present in the skull.
I was wondering where Mr. Bogdanov was getting the ideas for this. It looked kind of cool, but at the same time I got the impression he was working off a skull reference of some sort. It certainly wasn't the fossil skull, as I'd been using that, and it wasn't anywhere near as "interesting" in its details.
Till I came across the skull restoration available on Plesiosaur Directory. There was no question this was Dmitry Bogdanov's basis for his restoration. I decided to follow suit, though not exactly as he had done.
It was tricky getting a match. Especially on the thin "lips" at the end of the snout... So Dmitry Bogdanov's restoration once more for comparison. I use his, as again it is the only other (accurate) restoration out there. Geoffory Cox and Chris Gaskin have both done supposed Kaiwhekeas, but their heads were clearly modelled on the more typical Elasmosaurid design.

Mine version is not an exact match it should be noted. Partially as I couldn't be bothered to match the skull 100% (as likely this skull restoration isn't 100% correct itself), and as I wanted mine to be a little different this is where I got it too.

My Kaiwhekea on its own.

With its mouth open it demonstrates just how truly bizarre and unique its family of Gondwannaian Plesisosaurs are, in comparison to the more familiar Elasmosaurids of the northern hemisphere.

Dec 6, 2009

Where did it all go?

It is hard to believe, but I only have 2 more weeks left in this country... Frankly I can't wait to go.

The epic soap opera that is packing and wrapping up have begun with a vengence. I've also done such a good job of seeing all the sights once more, that there isn't much left on the agenda to do that is fun (which is good, as there is no time for it anymore!).

I have so, oh so, many projects to try and wrap up.

Despite my co-creator of the kids book being something of a whinny git about trying to publish it (he has waited till the literal last minute of the 3 *BEEP*ing years!) I've given up on it, but he is forcing me to use up a precious day to work on it again (though I'm not going to be happy about it!!!)... I need to finish prepping my whale skull for Dr. Fordyce, and try and complete my 3D whale. Though the Palaeo-art whale at this stage is likely to have to be completed through email correspondence.

With ART Evolved's big "Blog of Note" break through yesterday, I'm also forced to redouble my efforts on my pieces. I'm being smart and trying to get the whale done for it, plus my Kiwi marine reptiles.

As I got some feedback from Dr. Fordyce on my Kaiwhekea the other day, I thought I should try and complete it here today. Apart from rigging I think it is ready for use in a final piece or two...

Dec 4, 2009

In the pages of the Prehistoric Times?

I'm getting to one of my New Year's goals early this year. That goal is to get my art published at least twice in 2010 (doubling my single publication of this year).
The application deadline for Palaeo-art submissions in the Prehistoric Times magazine is coming up next week. They are looking for pieces with an Anomalocaridid and a Stegosaurus. I've got plenty of Anomalocaridids to send, but the Stegosaur was a problem up until today...

Fortunately I was not completely caught with my pants down. I had my old Mark: 2 Stegosaur model built at about this time last year... A few changes and improvements to the shaders and the addition of a skeletal rig (making it a Mark: 5 if you were wondering). This is what I came up with.

It's not too bad considering the limitations of the current rigging (rigging plates is coming close to feathers on my scale 'O hate). If anyone can see anything that needs improvements, you can stuff it! :P No, I'm kidding. Please send you suggestions to me the usual ways.

Combined with this piece, which I am fairly confident is a very strong contender for publication, I should hopefully have a magazine to pick up... with my art in it SOON!

Nov 28, 2009

Way TOO much on the go!!!

Man what a week...

This was officially the busiest week I've had in months!!! Between work (2 days at regular and two late days at the daycare), trying to get rid of the old car, arrange the borrowed car, taking the last of Germ-man Traum photos, a farewell dinner for said German as he and his wife leave for good in 3 days *tear*, and finally a pretty full on migraine my week has completely disappeared!

There was next to no time for blogging, 3Ding, or anything else overly productive (other then principle Traum photography... which I guess is a big deal. I just haven't been doing a lot of them this year, and so they feel out of place).

Last weekend during my Peter phone call, I did get to starting the prey for my Mosasaur. This Kiwi fossil here, the Aristonectidae Kaiwhekea. It is a fairly specialized and unique form of Plesiosaur. I'll be going into my detail on this once I get to the serious work on the model.

Here's where I have gotten too. The big "breakthrough" (more like smart use of a simple process... 90% of art is use of common sense I'm finding) is the display of my references in 3D space. It is simplistic, it isn't really interact able, but it is handy when tweaking proportions and limb placements to have my references floating there.
I will do a proper post on how to do this later. Hopefully this weekend I can reclaim some of my time... but I have to start packing soon, and have a farewell a week till we depart (resulting in our own big farewell) so I'm not expecting any earth shattering artistic developments.

Nov 20, 2009

I think we're onto a winner here...

As all Mark 5 models must now include a skeletal rig for posing (why I'd do the hard, long, and inaccurate old fashion posing anymore is beyond me!) I added a skeleton to the Tylosaur today.

This is one of 3 models I've ever built that I do not hate (though looking back on one of them today might have that revised to just this model now...). In fact I'm so proud of this model, that after a few more tweaks I'm considering firing off a few shots to Mike Everhart (Mosasaur guru extrodinare) for his opinion!

Nov 15, 2009

Was I complaining about Mark: 5's before?

Okay, so officially I've blown myself away. When the Tylosaur only had its body shader it looked like any of my other models. By the time I'd textured up the head and lower jaw it was becoming clear this wasn't one of my typical models...

I seriously can not believe I built this. Of course the kicker is, we've all seen this model throughout the week, but with the new Mark: 5 shading, it looks like a something completely different!

That and I think I managed to capture the Monitor Lizard feel I was aiming for!

I also feel I'm closing the gap between myself and Dinoraul, a 3D modeller on Renderosity whom I respect, and frankly envy the models of... Though I have to say apart from his more detailed modelling and shading, I have actually outdone him a Prehistoric critter. This is more due to his lack of correctness on the anatomy, everything from the skull back on this guy is dead wrong!
Though I would like to be able to match his modelling detail and shading. At least I've outdone him on something :P

Next step with the Tylosaur is to skeletonize him, and add my own details... once I learn to Vertex.

Now We're Talking

Good progress on the Tylosaur today.
Sadly I had to replace the blue undercoat. It just wasn't looking real, or Monitor Lizard. Replace it with a brown of the same style and...

I think I've nailed it pretty much on the head!

Here is the original Julius Csotonyi that inspired me to take it this way... I think I'm nailing the idea in my own way!

Still just a Mark 5

Slugging away on Tylosaur bits and pieces. The good thing about being sick is that it means I can happily zombie my way through tedious tasks. The bad thing is I can't think about them as I do them.

Fortunately I've gotten my thinking in Photoshop (well Paintshop) layers to such a level that it is second nature even in zombie mode for me to create a new layer for everything... Whether it needs one or not :P

I started to test out the Monitor Lizard component of the shader. This was the first go, and though it is promising in premise, the scales were just way way too big!

If your confused as to what I'm aiming for, it is a pattern similar to this fellow here. I'm wondering if I need to lighten up my Tylosaurs under coats so that the black will be as contrasting as it is on this lizard?

Mucking with scale size I'm closer to the effect now. I just have to apply patience to creating the black pattern, and I should achieve the results I'm looking for.

A bit more conversing with David, and I follow what he meant by Newt-like now (he was very kind to elaborate). Specifically how my tail flaring causes it to be way taller then the back and belly of the beast. I can see what he means, but I'm wanting my Mosasaur to feel a little primitive and awkward, so I'm okay with this feeling. Though David is correct in it causing some sense of scale issues, so I will have to meditate on these at some point.

Some sea snakes, in particular the Yellow-Bellied (Pelamis platurus), have a very flared fin that runs above and below their tail.

Granted it is not as dramatic or exaggerated as my Mosasaurs, but I just mention it as I want every feature of my Mosasaur to denote something Varniod in nature.

Most artists don't make their Mosasaurs have the distinctly lizard like profile I'm going for. The belly sticks out, the sides stick out in the midriff area, and my tail tapers before the fin flares out. These are all none hydrodynamic features, granted, but modern Monitor Lizards are incredibly good swimmers. In my mind all you'd have to do is stick a bit of a fin like mine on them here, and they'd be super good swimmers.

Don't believe me, I've TRIED to include this video of a Nile Monitor going after a swimming snake (aka swimming Varniod vs. swimming Varniod!!!). Notice how with a similar profile to my Tylosaur the Monitor has no trouble at all swimming through the water. Add a fin to him and I think he won't get out of the lake!

Nov 14, 2009


Like always I didn't get as much done this afternoon as I'd have liked, but at least I did get in a bit.

Sadly this cold I'm currently afflicted with has dulled my mental capacity to a point where Vertex modelling is just too demanding. I will be giving it a go though as soon as possible.

The big accomplishment of the day are the flippers which I have reconstructed as webbed toes. I have never understood why most Mosasaur restorations have the flippers as nice solid proper flippers like on Pleiosaurs and Ichthyosaurs.

The fingers of these two animals are nice and packed together clearly forming a nice flipper. Mosasaur fingers are not nicely packed together, and curve away from each other slightly. This strikes me as much more in common with lots of other aquatic creatures with splaided digits. The gaps aren't filled with solid tissue. They have skin stretch across and for webbing.

I am also playing with the beginning of the colour scheme. There is a lot of work that will be going into the texture of this guy, as again I want him to look like a Monitor Lizard in patterning. However with the colour I wanted a more ocean colour scheme. Hence the blue. Does it look semi believable at this stage? Keeping in mind it is an undercoat.