Holy crap I stayed up until 4 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning working on the tetrajets but it was worth it. I have all the parts cast and all I have left is assembly and painting. It's downhill from here in terms of work so I expect to have painted ones done by later today. Of course my plans always go terribly wrong and I may find myself painting them on the plane ride to Cincinnati.
BOTCON PEOPLE-if you want a tetrajet and you're going to the show, email me and we'll arrange some sort of arrangement. I'll have ten and so far five are spoken for (Nala, Defensis, Silverwynde, John S., and me). That leaves five remaining that will probably go unsold anyways so who am I kidding. I'm going to price them at $7 each, which is $2 more than I said I would earlier, but I decided to throw in a free copy of THE KING OF ALL TOY ROBOTS POEMS COLLECTIONS* (which I was originally going to sell for $2 anyways). It's great deal.
(First five people to email me get a tetrajet reserved. Only one to a person. If we're unable to meet up at the show then there's no sale, but I will try my damndest to make it happen. Also, I will probably not have change so if you could have exactly seven bucks that would be fantastic.)
*Features the exclusive poem "I Only Feel Alive at Botcon (and that is why I want to die)"
UPDATE!-Thanks to everyone who responded. I don't have anymore email access so I can't take anymore reservations.
I'm in the part of my latest mold making/resin casting project where I start running into problems and things don't come out right and I go all crazy but I figure it out. I've learned that mold making is really tough and to do it well requires engineering talent, which isn't something that my uneducated brown trash mind has in much abundance. It's funny because the guy who sells me my supplies has this motto, "If you can bake a cake you can do resin casting". I know he said that to encourage me and keep me motivated, but holy hell I have wedding cake dreams but only a cupcake skill level.
In a nutshell, some things went wrong and I screwed up the mold and this will complicate things down the road. Describing particulars is technical and boring, but the point is I should have known how to avoid this mold design problem based on my past molding experience. It pisses me off because once I saw my mistake I had a Ben Kenobi moment where I thought, "Wait a minute. How did this happen? I'm smarter than this." It's a pain in the butt but I'm going to keep going with my crappy mold. If there's one thing I like about myself it's that I don't let notions of doing a quality job get in the way of getting crap done.
Aside from the mold design dissapointment, I've had other little OCD type aggravations throughout this project. The biggest one is the very slightly noticeable asymmetry of the tetrajet sculpt. If you look at the little spaceship head on in just the right way, you can tell it's not perfectly symmetrical. It bothers me but it's not worth starting over or quitting the project. It's hopefully not even that big of a deal and when all is said and done nobody will notice it. But in the back of my mind it really bothers me that I don't have a computer brain and robot hands and laserbeam eyes so I could do precision sculpting of my clay cartoon spaceships.
When I'm feeling bad about my limited resin casting abilities I like to think about the guys that made the Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets for the very first Star Wars. They used a somewhat similar process to what I use for my little figures and those first helmets had symmetry issues, too. Although I never noticed that kind of stuff as a kid and Star Wars was still a huge success, I know there was probably a costume maker who had a hard time watching Star Wars because he knew he fucked up the mold and he made Darth Vader's left eye 2 millimeters wider than the right one.
The point is that when it came time to do a Darth Vader costume for Revenge of the Sith, they didn't use the old ones that they knew were a little off. If you check out this article, seven paragraphs down they talk about how the new Darth Vader helmet was done with computers even though nobody in the audience gives a crap. I UNDERSTAND YOUR PAIN, DARTH VADER HELMET MAKER.
Sometimes when I am running laps around an oval track I get mystified and I lose track of what lap I'm on. I am experiencing a similar phenomenon as I get further into my tetrajet project. I have studied this shape so much that I have absolutely no idea what it looks like. I will just pass off any design inaccuracies as artistic license, although sometimes I think the design as presented in the cartoon is the cel animated equivalent of an M.C. Escher painting. Holy crap I swear some of the aspects of this shape delve into impossible object territory.
However I am getting closer and I made a Flickr album of some in-progress pictures of what I've got so far. The last two weekends have been nothing but sculpting, sculpting, sculpting. Well, except for last weekend when Richard gave me the heads up on the Star Wars marathon on Spike TV and I lost 3 days of productivity watching R2-D2's adventures in pan-n-scan with bonus commercials. The sculpt is coming out pretty good despite my artistic licenses which should have been revoked a long time ago by the artistic police. I'm still not at the final sculpt yet but I'm really close.
Being four years old going into the eighties and being fourteen when they ended was like getting hit by a ten year long freight train of heavy metal and robots. At the end I was left wondering what the heck just happened. As a kid I knew what crazy cartoons and movies I liked and I ate it all up without paying much attention to where it came from. Part of this was because I really didn't care who was making up all this crazy stuff about robots and Darth Vaders and part of it was because at four years old I was hardly a sentient being. But I hit a point in my post-childhood life where I wanted to know just who exactly was responsible for all the craziness and how it all came about. These were the mysteries of the universe for which I wanted answers when I was a teenager. I was never really concerned about the meaning of life or man's purpose on earth, I just wanted to know who made Optimus Prime and R2-D2.
Thanks to the opening credits of Star Wars that boldly state it's by Lucasfilm and was filmed in LucasVision with LucasSound by LucasCorp at LucasRanch I was able to figure that one out. But Transformers was a bit trickier and it's only been over the past five years or so that the answers have started coming out. One of the people most closely involved with the creation of the Transformers was comic book writer Bob Budiansky. I never realized how big a role he played in the creation of the line until the last five years or so when the online fandom started asking these sorts of questions. It turned out that Bob Budiansky was arguably the George Lucas of Transformers. What is even more amazing was that Transformers was just one of his many projects. He worked on more..much more!
Back in 2006 I went to an unofficial Transformers convention where Mr. Budiansky was a guest and hot damn he told the story of the creation of Transformers as if it were yesterday. I stood slack jawed as he recounted the most minute details of the creation of the Transformers. If the eighties hit me like a freight train, Bob Budiansky was the guy driving it.
I don't normally record video and audio of just anybody talking about anything, but that day I recorded his entire 30 minute panel and even took video of him telling his story. Since I was dumb about computers I didn't ever upload the audio to the internety but I did write down pretty much every word he said. I look back now and I'm amazed at how much time and energy I spent doing that, especially since I just put it out on Usenet for free and I wasn't getting paid to write that transcription by anyone. It was pure blind fan insanity. I was able to do this because those were the days when I was suffering from full blown RoboPlasti-bergers, also I was unemployed.
Now that I am less dumb about computers I have figured out how to put the audio portion of this panel right here on the internet!
So if you're into that sort of stuff, check it out. It was a good time and sitting up there in the front row as Mr. Budiansky told his story ranks as one of my favorite moments in Transformer convention moments. Of course there is still a chance I am dumb about computers and the link won't work, making this post a huge shameful embarrassment and effectively making me the Star Wars kid of Transformers.
I've been sculpting multiple versions of those triangle shaped ships from the Transformers cartoon and working with this shape so much has me falling in love with it. I've been messing up a lot but every time I start a new one I find myself appreciating the simplicity of the basic concave triangle with one flattened edge I start out with. One time I just stopped working the clay any further once I had the basic shape because I thought it was pretty. I'm not smart about art but I do know that my favorite piece of sculpture ever is "Bird in Space" by that Romanian guy Constantin Brancusi. For "Bird in Space" Brancusi captured the very essence of flight itself in one sleek elegant shape. The raw tetrajet shape I'm working on strongly resembles Brancusi's bird, maybe if it died and splatted on the ground and broke its neck at a 90 degree angle to the rest of its body.
I know it's presumptuous of me to compare what I'm doing to one of the greatest artists of all time. My homemade clay spaceship based on a throwaway design from a toy robot cartoon isn't anywhere in the same league as real art. I'm not even sure it's art at all. I remember I had a friend once who told me that all the little things I sculpt in clay and make from plastic were not art. I held his opinion in some regard as he was studying to be a Zen master. He read the Zen books and went to the Zen websites and did other Zen master stuff you do if you want to be enlightened. He even sent me Zen e-cards. I never knew the meaning of humility until someone practicing to be a Zen master told me my clay robots sucked.
In a recent How To Be Happy strip, one fly tells the other fly that "Happiness stems from process and achievement". I could understand the achievement part, but I didn't quite understand why he included "process" too. Until now, the work required to get something done was always a drag to me. When I'm working these resin casting projects my mind is always thinking about how great it will be once I'm done. I love that sense of accomplishment upon finishing, but with this tetrajet sculpt I find myself enjoying each little part of the process right from the beginning. I'm appreciating every little bit of progress along the way and not being so focused on finishing that I overlook the fun that I'm having right now in whatever rudimentary step I'm on. Finally after 34 years I understand what "It's no more fun when the work's all done" means. I don't know if I feel dumber because it took me so long to achieve this understanding or because I achieved this understanding from reading webcomics about talking flies.
I feel like I've achieved a level of enlightenment comparable to Kevin Spacey's character in American Beauty. I always thought that movie was sort of dumb the way the characters were finding beauty in floating trash bags caught in the wind, but now that I've been staring at clay for hours on end I think I understand (what it must feel like to be high on marijuana all day). Occasionally I read obituaries of people and their survivors are always bragging how the dead guy "could see the beauty" in even the most mundane aspects of life, similar to the floating trash bags from that movie. Well now that I have beautyvision I guess yay I have something else in common with crazy old people that are close to death.
So last weekend superstar of sci-fi/fantasy illustration Darrell Sweet made an appearance at a small art gallery here in Rapid City. Although I never heard of the guy before and I didn't own any of his books, I decided to go support him because I didn't want him to end up the Virgil of Rapid City. In a show of supportiveness, my wife was online all last week buying books that this guy had illustrated so that we could show up with something for him to sign. But she wasn't keeping track so we ended up with two books of The Last Unicorn.
Mr. Sweet's first appearance was Friday evening and I was so sure Rapid City would let him down and nobody would show up that I grabbed the wife and baby and we went out there. Yeah, we may have been total posers that never heard of him before but the way I see it, having fake fans is preferable to having no fans at all. It was like we were Batman answering the Batsignal. Somewhere out there, a man needed fans and we would rise to the occasion to help. We were insta-fans. Just add water. It was as if by pretending to be fans we had found our calling, that thing that made us feel special and heroic. Or at least me. My wife didn't really give a crap either way.
The painting in front of us contains a dwarf riding a donkey talking to a knight on an armored horse with a giant goose flying above them all. Behind us that painting is of a girl standing in front of an iguana that has a donkey head and in the sky there's a Winnebago being pulled by three flying horses. Darrell Sweet is an insane genius.
We got there and I was expecting the place to be empty but it was totally full of all sorts of people. The mayor was there along with several city council representatives. I felt dumb thinking that nobody would show up. But then it became obvious to me that these people weren't here for the artist so much as they were just going to get face time with the other fancily dressed Rapid City social elite. That's cool and all but it was kind of sad that I only saw one guy who looked like he really belonged-an obese fellow with a dragon print t-shirt. I thought to myself, this man is a true Darrell K. Sweet fan. All of us fake fans must have been diminishing him, like kryptonite to his fan-ness. As he passed me in the party platter buffet line I felt like he deserved the snack sized ham sandwich wedges more than me.
After the reception was over the gallery director plugged the book signing Saturday and mentioned Mr. Sweet would also be doing a class on how to draw dragons. She announced that as a special treat, the local chapter of the society for creative anachronism would be doing their thing during his appearance. It sounded like a full blown, Sweet inspired renaissance faire. I realized that my services as Insta-Fan would not be needed any longer. When my wife dropped by the house Saturday after Toastmasters and asked if I wanted to get our multiple copies of Last Unicorn signed, I said no. Darrell Sweet doesn't need to sign our books anymore. Besides, I just found a local band on MySpace consisting of one guy who sings while playing his keyboard and a drum machine and he'll be doing a gig next week. HE WILL NEED FANS.
Botocn is a little over three weeks away and I've been thinking about all the fun I've had at the one or two Transformer conventions I've been to here and there. I've had some good times at these shows even though I always seem to make a total dork out of myself amongst the other roboplastico fans. This is harder than it sounds. A little social dysfunction at a toy robot convention is not surprising considering I'm better at preserving 20 year old toy robots than maintaining friendships with real people. I've done a horrible job at keeping in touch with friends I've made at Botcon but holy crap you should see how well I take care of my Dinobots.
While much of my time at Botcon is spent in the bathroom hiding from angry people who thought I knew how to use email, I do sneak out often enough to take part in some of the show activities. One of my most memorable convention moments was the figure customization class at Botcon 2006. The customization class was a big deal because Hasbro provided each participant with the raw parts to assemble two complete Transformers. And by raw I mean these parts were still on the sprues, fresh from the plastic injection molding machine. Outside of working in a Chinese toy factory this was the closest you could ever get to a Transformer in its most embryonic state. Finally I could play out my fantasy of being the Chinese factory worker who de-sprues toy parts all day for $15 a week.
Because of a miscommunication with Hasbro, everybody in the class got twice as many parts as they needed. All the parts were in bags and each bag had enough for two robots, and each person got two bags. We all got to make two toy robots and we got to keep an extra bag with the raw parts still on the sprues for two more. It was pretty cool from a collector standpoint and I've never opened my extra bag. Although I sold off and gave away all of my other convention exclusive toys from that year, I never got rid of those two Transformers I made myself in the class, or the bag of raw parts. Part of the reason is that the convention organizer made us take an oath that we wouldn't. We even raised our right hands and everything. I'm not sure, but I think at the age of 32 in the middle of a toy robots convention I may have joined the Boy Scouts.
It was a real pain in the ass to put those things together and even after five hours most everyone in the class didn't have theirs fully assembled and painted. I gained a new appreciation for the work of the people who do this stuff for a living, and these were just your basic seven dollar Transformers. I also feel really bad about every toy robot I broke when I was a kid, knowing that some Asian guy really busted his butt to put it all together in the first place. I don't know if I could do that job knowing how destructive little kids are. It's like working in a factory making pants and knowing that eventually, somewhere, someday, somebody is going to crap all over your hard work.
As the local appearance by prolific sci-fi/fantasy illustrator Darrel K. Sweet approaches, I find myself tormented by the idea that if I went to see the guy I would be a total poser because I don't have a single book he did the cover for. This poser crisis has gripped me for about a week now, during which time my wife was Amazoning some books that he did the covers for. I see now that while I was having an emo meltdown over whether or not I was worthy to be in the presence of king of the Deericorns, I should have just gone out and done something about it.
I don't think my self perceived lack of fan credibility is all that crazy. It's important to me to at least be remotely familiar with the work of whatever artist I get to meet, even if we don't really meet and all I do is watch from the back of the room while he teaches little kids how to draw castles and dragons. I like to be prepared, and in the kind of way that shows I know what I was talking about. I just don't want to come across as a fan dumbass. The kind of guy who would ask Simon Furman to sign a Transformers comic book that he did not write. The kind of guy who would ask Yngwie Malmsteen to play Freebird. The kind of guy that would ask James Earl Jones to say "Live Long and Prosper" in his Darth Vader voice (although that would be somewhat interesting).
So Mr. Sweet has done over 3,000 drawings and paintings and I worry that there will be a time during his appearance where he'll look out upon the audience and ask, "Okay now, how many books do each of you have that feature my cover art?" It will be like judgment day, except if god was the guy who did the 1982 Lord of the Rings calendar. And each of the five people in the front row will answer "All of them" while I keep thinking, "Damnit, I should have bought that damn calendar from ebay," and wondering about how to bring up the whole deericorns thing. And when he gets to me I will hold up the copy of the Last Unicorn book my wife bought from Amazon and I will say, "Yes I have had this book ever since it came out and I have no others of your work because I never go outside on account of the furious masturbating I do to your unicorn drawings."
I'm reading the announcement about his appearance and what is especially intimidating to me is the idea that "Teens and adults are encouraged to bring their sketch books for tips and critiques from Darrell." I can totally see a situation unfolding where I am the only guy there without a tryptzillion page sketchbook of dragon and unicorn drawings to be critiqued by the man. And when everybody notices this they will kick me out and I will be pelted with paintbrushes and twenty sided dice. BUT I DO HAVE ONE DRAWING I COULD SHOW HIM.