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!