Aug 28, 2009

What a week...

Chaos, I believe is a great word to describe this week at work. Which is funny, normally I see myself as something of a chaotic element in the skool system. A rocker of the boat, challenger of norms, and a rogue element rampaging around the box. Sadly this week slightly shattered these illusions.

I obviously can't go into detail, but at my regular skool there was a HUGE powderkeg of behavioural and aggressive incidents all on my first day of four. It was quite odd to be there throughout the whole resolution process. As a result of it all, the kids were all very agitated and unsettled. Which resulted in me having to the enforcer of the status quo and be less my normal self, aka I wasn't much fun and thus didn't have much fun. Oh well. Hopefully the weekend will let us all purge this week from our systems, and we can start fresh when I return there next week.

Last night, while catching up with Bond, I started construction on this Burgess critter, Odaraia. Though not one of my favourites, I've always had a softspot for this floating shrimp taco with eyes.

I'm not extremely proud or happy of this model. It is functional, but that is all I need it for. My goal of getting 5 pieces in for this ART Evolved gallery has required some cutting of corners.

After some moderate tinkering today I was able to produce a descent schooling effect for them. This is only one layer of 3, as I plan to add 2 more swimming Burgess critters to this scene, and then have an Anomalocaris in the middle tearing a poor catch to shreds.

Though I don't particularly like my Odaraia model, it works well in this swarm. There was a minor but not remarkable tech break through, as there are 4 skeletoned and posed variants of the Odaraia comprising the school.

Aug 24, 2009

Rounding out the Shale

Another weekend came and went. Got quite a bit done during it.

First and foremost I now have 2 pieces officially done for the upcoming ART Evolved gallery. I am very happy with the final version of the claw reef, and I think it matches and out does Karoo Sunset as my pinnacle artwork.

In order to finish off the claw reef I needed to increase the ecosystem diversity with a few new Burgess Shale critters. Of these, the one I'd most wanted to make in 3D forever has been Leanchoilia. This is my current model, and it does the job. I'm not happy with the shell at all (though through it I have discovered an incredibly powerful new method of making segmented shells!) and will probably fix it at some point.

The tentacles on the other hand are a technical triumph, if I say so myself. They are each made of 54 individual segments that have been linked and had their individual rotation parameters defined. Meaning they function as one piece, but when I move the ends the whole thing easily twists and curls like a real tentacle. This sadly was a lot of work as I had to painstakingly set the parameters of each individual piece. I hope the new version of Carrara features a batch rotation setting where you can apply the same restraints on multiple objects at once.

I'm not finished with my Burgess construction effort. I'm aiming to build at least 3-4 more classic and obscure critters to occupy my remaining 3 unfinished pieces.

The other finished piece was an easy redo of my classic silhouetted Anomalocaris, only with the new version model.
A possible 6th wild card piece is a more tweaked version of this, my sponge eating Anomalocaris. It was inspired by a conversation I had with a world expert on Trilobites a few years ago. This expert challenged the concept of the super predator Anomalocaris due to a lack of track fossil half eaten Trilobites, which I've seen claimed as actually existing but have yet to see for myself (the expert hadn't seen them either, which might be telling), and they proposed Anomals instead ate the equally giant for their time sponges. I don't really buy into this argument, as again I've heard there are trace fossils, and the mainstream is content with the hunter model. Still it got me thinking and researching, so I may present it as a testement to the good of contstantly testing and rethinking conventional wisedom.
We'll see if I get this one done in time.

Went on another field trip as well this weekend. This time not overly far from Dunedin, just an hour south, out to Nugget Point. I'd been to this place twice before, but never bothered to wander out to the lighthouse at the end. Wish I had (though at least I did it this time!), as this is the view waiting for me there...

The rock circle in the water has been in a movie or two I'm sure, but I can't put my finger on which (other then probably Jackson's King Kong). Anyone out there recognize them?

Aug 22, 2009

Restless Down Under

End of another full on week. I ended up at the Kindergarten for 2 days, which though fun and brainless, drains me of a lot of my energy reserves (little kids need constant attention unlike older ones...). Adding to this sense of blah, I've been suffering insomnia this week (a very rare thing, normal I sleep like the dead) and have been a wreck waking up at 3-5am everyday unable to proper get back to sleep.

Yet despite it all I've made some huge headway on my Claw Reef piece. I'm getting quite happy with it, and should have it done after a few more hours. As it stands I could probably put it in the gallery, but in my estimation it is only 75% complete. So let me know what you think, and any additions or subtractions that are needed.

Aug 18, 2009

Big Art Day

Today was a huge artistic day. Not so much for myself (though I did my share as you'll see), but rather for my good friend Peter Bond. Today was the day he dedicated solely to creating his Anomalocaridid for ART Evolved's next gallery at the end of the month. What made this epic creative undertaking cooler was he live blogged the whole thing! Check it out here...
As I ended up having no work today (oh well, I'm booked the rest of the week now!) I was able to join him on his artistic crusade a few hours into it, and got the exclusive privilege of chatting with him on skype for huge chunks of his journey.

He painted a fantastic piece 9-10 hours in, but hit a brick wall. How to create shafts of light through the water. Was he to paint them? Or photoshop them?

I suggested that Peter do it on the computer, and thus if he screwed up the painting would be safe. Peter wasn't sure how to proceed from here though, and in my frustration to attempt to explain to him how I'd do it, I grabbed the painting off his blog and played with it on my own machine to throw together this demo (as my procedure was really easy... but that was in my photoshop knock off... turns out to be a lot harder to do in real photoshop!).

This is what I ended up with. I seriously created this in about 1 minute total (with 30-40 second spent on the blue filter layer and only 20-30 seconds creating the light shafts). Lady R burst out laughing when she saw the effect I'd made on the Pikaia. I'd just picked that corner as the light source, I hadn't realized I'd make a gODly aura around the ancestor of all vertebrates... This was not my intention, but a funny flub worth mentioning.

Whilst talking to Peter, I found his creativity to be inspiring. So I jumped into creating my really complicated and involved piece for the gallery (I'm planning on a few entries). This was my shed Anomalocaris claw reef.

This is how far I got. Probably about 40% done.

The concept is based on the fact that 95% of Anomalocaris fossils we find are of their shed claws. In their environment most of these claws weren't being fossilized, so they must have served some sort of useful ecological purpose (otherwise early life would have been smothered to extinction in these claws!). I envision them serving as a good forming point for a new patches of reef. Thus we get a bit of biologic irony, the killing apprentice of nature's first super predator becoming a key life facilitator to its very prey...

Aug 15, 2009

My Creation Station

I'm a little bit late to the party, but I made it none the less. Hopefully making me just fashionable late. Hopefully!

Sean in his creative wisedom decided to organize an impromptu internet carnival of sorts, in which artists share their workspaces with the world. Thus giving us all a glimpse into the settings and places of some our favourite creations are made. I've been learning a lot so far, and been very impressed and surprised by where people are working (nothing like I imagined!... yet much more similar to me)

We are collecting the series of posts from everyone over on ART Evolved. Feel free to share your Creative Space with the world, and send us the link at to get added to the roster.

So here is my creative space. Well the small section highlighted by the arrows anyways. This is my desk/office/den/study/business operations centre.
In fact this is my only personal space in my whole house. Due to living with Lady R in a 4 person househoold, and her getting the seperate study attached to our room (as she is the university student), I had to settle for a desk in the corner of our main bedroom.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter. Though I'm a bit resigned to the fact it is the only part of the 3 story house that is exclusively mine.
Despite this slight sovereignty, as my space is in a shared room, my desk faces a constant threat of invasion by Lady R's things from the dresser. I must be constantly vigilant to keep the build up of invading hair care products, jewelry, makeup, and clothes from overwhelming my tiny santuary.
The heart of my workspace is of course my computer. You'll notice not only is it nestled in the midst of my mess (me and Lady R are traditional scattered left handed ppl... we organize things by spreading them out rather then piling them up. So you'll pick up that the whole room is a little on the messy side :P ).

My computer itself is quite a mixed up entity. It was originally a laptop, but a couple days after new years its screen died. Requiring me to purchase a monitor, which considering it was the cheapest I could find is REALLY nice!

This is where 90% of my creative work (that you guys see anyways) occurs, and thus results in my being at my desk a large amount of my home time. I do miss the days when I could take my puter to places like the TV room or my neighbors rooms and be sociable. However as this isn't even remotely an option I don't fret it.

To the left of my desk is this, my information collection station, comprised of a white board and quark board. The two in unison, while primitive, are incredibly effective.

For my creative projects I will record such key things as specific screen resolutions or file formats on both.

Overall in life this is even more important as this is my lifeline to work. All my key work information, minus the scheduling (which I moved into a calender book, to avoid double bookings that my old mono whiteboard system caused), lives here. As I'm the teaching version of self employed, it is vital I have phone numbers and contacts written up here. (Which is why the white board looks odd in the photo, I've blurred all the information so that none of my sensitive info gets misused. Not that I don't trust you people, I'm just not taking any chances)

On the non-computer side of the desk is my "utility" space. You'll find everything I use in my life here. This can include books, DVDs (such as in this photo a big inspiration to me the Muppet Show), my camera and its support gear, my cellphone (which I don't really use... hate them SO much!), my watch, multi vitamins (a huge part of how I keep healthy substitute teaching!), and writing equipment.

Most important of all of this is my water bottle space. I've found a trick to staying healthy (supplementing the vitamins... which I think are the key to my success this year) as a substitute teacher is to keep very hydrated. This helps flush a lot of harmful things out of my system before they can cause trouble, and so I drink between 6-8 litres of water a day.

Right beside the monitor is another extension of my computer. These are quite literally my external harddrives. Unlike the commerical versions of such drives you can buy, these units are harddrives from my old computers that have been rigged to function on my desk. The one in the forground is literally Delta Patrol the movie. If anything happens to this the movie is screwed (I'm meaning to back this up!).

Watching ever vigiliantly above this is my toy Kookaburra. A random gift from Momma R, to celebrate my new found obsession with these birds during my trip to Sydney. I like to think she'll (it's a girl I've decided) keep the harddrives safe till I can back them up.

Here is a closeup of my main trinket collection. They include the cool little wooden Dinosaurs given to me by Sister R for Xmas, and my manditory Batman fig. As a big fan of Batman and his creative solutions to problems, I try to keep the Bat influence high in any of my workspaces. Given to me by Dave last time I was in Canada, this figure also reminds me of him and my peeps back home in the Great White North.

That does it for my tiny personal space. Despite how small my claim on the house is, we have plenty of public space, including my favourite place of the whole house. The roof also known as SKYLOFT!, which is a giant glass room surrounded by a rooftop enclosed balcony.

From here we have a rather commanding view of Dunedin. When I need somewhere to think (and pace... I'm a total pacer) I come up here, and let the vast openess of view open my equally vast imagination.

s Dunedin benefits (and suffers) from rather sporadic weather, the views up here vary quite a lot throughout any given week, that alone month. So I'm never short of variation for my inspiration!
That does it for my workspace. Many of these photos are from the virtual tour of the house I've been meaning to do, but never quite get around to. If it is something people would like to see, I'll try to do it. If not meh.

Aug 13, 2009

Increase of a "Mark"

Today turned out to be an unexpected (but most welcome) day off. No skools needed me, and it couldn't have been better timed. Having been paid yesterday, and with many things breaking on me all at once this week like my headphones, waterbottle, and shoes (plus my already discussed camera) I used the day to remedy these problems.
I then had time for other things. Top on the list was getting Traumador's Canada adventure closer to being finished! We're at hopefully 5 more Drumheller posts, and then what I'm hoping to be under 10 in Calgary for a return to NZ in mid-late October... which is not following my goals, but I think everyone is enjoying this end of the Canada adventure. Let me and PIP know in the comments what you're thinking of the whole homecoming arc if your a Tyrannosaur Chronicles reader...

During my weekly phone call with Peter, I tinkered on Zendin the Troodon again.

To give you an idea of how far the model has come, here is a test render of the "Mark 2" era model I did in mid 2008. As of this afternoon the model graduated to the top of the line "Mark 4".

First on the chopping block today was Zendin's old shading scheme. It was cool in comparison to Mark 1 Larry, but doesn't hold up in my modern era stuff.

So I whipped up a simple gradient of a range of brown's I wanted to try. This simple shader looked so good I stuck with it (especially since most of it will be covered with feathers... why waste time on something that won't be overly visible?).

However for the head, which will be exposed, I tried a few extravagant schemes. This first one sadly made him look like he had black eyes.

These understated but bold brown lines were just what the doctor ordered (or at least looked good after 20 minutes of failures) so stuck.

Next I moved on to rigging him. I only had time to do the "body" which extends from the tip of the tail right up to the end of the neck (I haven't ventured into the chaotic and complex world of rigging heads... yet!).

This however gave the model a whole new dimension of life and awesome. The arms and legs should only take me another 20min (I had to go help with dinner after the next render).

With feathers put back I'm getting happy with the new Zendin... though I fear with mouth closed he has lost a lot of his "cute" factor. With it open he is still has that cute factor.

Anyways what do people out there think?
Next I really really need to get back to my ART Evolved Anomalocarid entries. Plus I have a few new Coelurosaurs to get ready for the big Pack/Canada finale for Traum in Sept...

Aug 12, 2009

Out with the old, and in with the new

So work shows no sign of letting up... I say this like it is a bad thing... no it is a good thing. At least for me ;P

The outbreak of the flu around town (some swine, mostly normal if you ask me!) and the wear and tear of half a year of skool has finally got teachers dropping from their classrooms left, right, centre! Great news for a professional vulture like me! (though I don't actually wish "ill" upon anyone,I do wish ill upon them if you follow me LOL).

This week has proved very odd and memorable in my substitute career so far. The skools I've been showing up to have all been ubber connected to my history in this town!

Monday saw me in THE classroom of the woman who laid me off from the holiday program. Then yesterday I was in the first room I ever properly taught in (as a student teacher). Today had me in THE last room I was a student teacher in. Nothing earth shattering, but it has been odd going from one connection to another. So for the next two days I anticipate I'll be in the rooms of my two teaching friends (which is impossible as Friday is booked in one of my regular rooms).

The bad side of all this teaching is that it drains me of my energy reserves. So despite having longish evenings, I'm not quite getting as much done as I should. On the good side though I have money again... Like as in beyond what is needed to survive (I haven't been THAT poor!).

With this new excess I broke down this weekend (in face a big electronics sale at all the stores in town) and bought a replacement camera! It turns out that Canon has carried on the lineage that my old dead A430 (on the left) was a part of, and I picked up the latest top of the line A480 (on the right).

I am very pleased with the A480 already as it performs similarly to my old A430, but hosts a LOT more control. The A430 was simply a point and click camera with only a few preset modes to give you a touch of control on the photos, but it wasn't much. In addition to about twice the preset controls (including an aquarium one... can't wait to try it out!!!) the A480 also includes exposure and ISO controls.

I'm not a big fan of the ISO control so far, but I'm not used to having to worry about the ISO. Hopefully once I'm used to it I'll be able to say good things about it (besides it is training for the nice camera I intend to buy in the next year).

Having exposure control however is amazing, and has made the transition from old to new pleasant (compared to the traditional bitter with all the little differences bugging you). I have found all the pictures I take end up being of a reduced exposure, between -0.5 and -1, leading me to wonder why cameras don't just automatically reduce the exposure. Oh well.

My new acquisition was timed perfectly with this weekend's field trip down to the Catlins. The Catlins are due south of Dunedin along the entire bottom southeast coast of New Zealand. Among highlights of the area are several spectacular forests.

Did I mention the forests?

Waterfalls. Four of them, though in my opinion only 2 are really worth the stops.

An old abandoned train tunnel.

Finally a world class petrified forest, which this is NOT a picture of! I have tons of photos of the forest already, and it is the furthest location from Dunedin (at about 2.5 hours one way) so we didn't make it there this weekend. For this trip we just stuck to the 2 waterfalls and the tunnel.
Fittingly everyone on the trip had a new (to them anyways) camera. So we'd park the car and all immediately break into hiking with a camera in front of our faces!
I wonder why my old camera died... I've only had the new one 5 days, and it has already taken 652 photos! Though in my defense these days being so addicted to panoramaing photos I need to take at least 2-3 pictures of any subject or spot (for the bigger impressive panoramas it can go as high as 12!).
The increase in megapixels from the A430 to the A480 has required me to go on a serious photo cleanup. Out of the 22000ish photos I had a week ago, I have managed to cull this down to 1900 so far, and am hoping to get it down to 1500 by the end of the week. Fortunately for me this is a good task for when I'm brain dead after teaching.

Aug 7, 2009

Keeping Out of Trouble

One of my favourite sayings, especially when applied to myself, has always been "keeping out of trouble". As a slight sufferer of ADD I, if left otherwise unoccupied, can get myself into the odd spot of trouble.

Lately having found myself poor, due to a lack of work (though as of this new term this is a problem of the past...) and my efforts to save my worthless kiwi $s for the move back up to Canada next year, I've become acutely aware of how much money keeping occupied can take.

The remedy I've come up with only gets around the expense issues after a fashion (as everything costs something!). Every weekend I've been jumping into the car and driving around both town and south east New Zealand in search of fun and interesting places to photograph.
I justify this as both my last stab at enjoying/taking advantage of my time in New Zealand, and that photograph is free (sadly the cost of fuel and the associated guilt of environmental impact remove this).
However fans of Traumador shall be happy to hear this photography is going towards the cause of Traum's big finale in NZ (though the irony he probably won't get back to it on the blog till I leave BACK for Canada LOL). I won't elaborate much, other than to say it will be an adventure spanning millions of years!!!
My new favourite spot in town is a little park area at the north end of Dunedin called Bethunes Gulley. The slight irony is it was just up the road from Salmond, but a little ways up the road. Needless to say from my new location in town I must drive to get there.

A short drive that is very worthwhile in my opinion.

This specific spot, which lies just off the main path, has become my favourite picture taking spot of late. I've been returning to this exact spot for the last three weeks at different times of the day to see what the different lighting effects are like in the forest. The best times so far I've been finding are just after the sun begins coming down after noon, and any point when it is overcast.

This photo is among a FEW that capture the atmosphere perfectly. I love the layers and layers of lines juxtaposed with the tentacle like branches in the foreground. This effect is even cooler in person. If you're ever in Dunedin I recommend a stop by the Gully.

On one of my longer day trips (not my longest, but quite probably 2nd or 3rd longest) we ventured into Central Otago. It is a nice area, but not my top pick of New Zealand regions as it mixes a lot of familiar features from back in southern Alberta. Those being grasslands and mountains. I'm more about my forests and water.

However in the area around the small town of Twizel I made an astounding discovery. Twizel is in between Wanaka and Queenstown for anyone interested in NZ geography.

Of more interest to the greater world, Twizel town sits directly under the mountain Peter Jackson CGed the city of Gondor onto, making it neo Gondor I guess. Sadly EVERYTIME I go up this way I never manage to snap a photo of this mountain. Having seen it, there is no mistaking it, but the conditions have never been right (either trees obscure the camera from a moving car or worse the sun is setting behind it!).

Two years ago while exploring this area with my parents, we drove past this cool outcrop of hills about 15 minutes down the highway from Twizel. These hills were quite unique, and caught my attention to the point I took a picture from the moving car, something I don't normally do.

At the time I thought it was simply a cool random road side sight, and didn't think there was a way to get close to these hills. Man I hate it when I'm wrong! Though the good news was I found out my error before it was too late.

While out on my fossil dig with the University of Otago's palaeontologist, I noticed in several Central Otago town's postcards of a cool set of rocks called the Clay Cliffs supposedly from the area.

This last weekend I set out on the mission of tracking down this mysterious location, that none of the locals knew of (as I was on the wrong end of Central Otago starting my search I now can't blame them... it is a big area). I was amazed finally arriving that I actually knew of the Clay Cliffs, and more to the point I'd actually technically seen them before, as I distinctly remembered these rocks from my parental trip.

Though these may seem familiar to Lord of the Ring fans, these other worldly rocks are NOT actually the same ones used in the film as the pathway to the city of the dead. Those are the same geologic makeup as those, but the film's ones are a much larger formation on the north end of this island. The Clay Cliffs would be too small to look good in a full-on helicopter and crane equipped Hollywood effort, but to those of us armed with just our legs and handheld cameras it was pretty much the real deal!

My only compliant, due to our arriving an hour before sunset (and the sun had already fallen behind the hills sadly) the sky bleached out of my photos.
Through some creative photoshopping I've tried to restore and replace the sky into these shots. (Quick aside plug... check out Sean's more impressive photo tweaking efforts of this week here)
What do people think? Does this look really fake? Keeping in mind the location is a little fantastic and "unreal" to begin with (it was ubber cool, and makes my top 10 NZ spots, and certainly the most underrated attraction of Central in my opinion!).

Aug 4, 2009

Using my head

If last term was quiet (which sadly it was) then this term has been stupid busy! I'm so high in demand that I had a skool phone me in the middle of the day whilst teaching at another. Something that never happens down here (skools are independent pseudo competitive entities).

While this is good for my wallet, it sucks for my projects! I have no time or energy anymore...

Still I get in a stab here and there where I can...

One of the big ones as of late has been the upgrade to the Troodon model. The weekend (which was eaten up with some long, but fun photo taking field trips) saw one major improvement that I'm finally happy with. Zendin's head.

This was where the model started, with the head I built back in early 2008. It is not very good by my modern standards, but for back then this was cutting edge.
Since I have sadly come up with some really nice Theropod skulls I'm proud of. This Velociraptor being one of the most (only Lillian's out does this for my top picks of my 3D dinos). Furthermore despite them being distant cousins, Velociraptor and Troodon had similarly shaped skulls.
I thought some strategic tweaks to this model with a new shader, and I could solve my Troodon skull problems in no time... Why do I always think these stupid things?
This is where I got it as of my last post. As you may recall I was not overly pleased. This failed effort was NOT easy or quick as I'd hoped, and the next stab wasn't any more of these two it turns out :(

So I dug up some references.
One of which I accidentally discovered on a 3D forum I keep up with. A nice 3D model by ExprssnImg (you can check out the model for sale here).
Now I'm not the sort who buys his models (it is shocking how many 3D "artists" out there seem to enjoy 3Ding using other peoples models... for me 75% of the fun is in the building) but this was constructive, as the angles shown on this thing's advert gave me an idea how they'd built it.

The other Troodon I liked was this rather stunning reconstruction by Frank DeNota. Also a 3D creation, though sadly only the one angle.

Between the two of them were elements I loved. The snout shape of the first (as DeNota's to me is too much like my Velociraptor...) but the cute innocent eyes and demeanor of the second.

Though not a perfect blend, I'm much happier with this. However being the perfectionist I am I still don't love this...

I'm hoping after the major retexturing and shading job I'm going to be doing the model it'll look better. The methods and manners I create my Dinosaurs colour schemes with have changed a lot since 2008, so I'm hoping this rebuild will look much better with a new colour scheme.

So here is where Zendin is sitting at right now.
Is he lovable and cute? That's what I'm aiming for. Lady R just doesn't think a Dinosaur can be made to match these descriptors... I'm hoping she is wrong!