Jun 2009

Shut the EFF UP, Leo, Skids and Mudflap

Hi, Everybody..

Go see Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen (make sure you turn off lights and unplug your fridge so the site won’t load and run so slowly). It’s truly a CGI masterpiece. I went to see it just to watch the robots move and transform. I enjoyed that immensely. I can’t imagine it being more top notch.

The story was a fine one, but it left us with no cliffhanger or any indication that there’d be a third movie. I’m sure once Michael Bay, et al, sees how much money this sequel rakes in, they’ll put out for a third.

Anyway. I wish we could have seen more of the motorcycle sisters. They had cameos at best. The cast of Autobot cars was well selected, with plenty from the previous cast and some new ones for this movie.

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So. Two new Autobots, Skids and Mudflap, apparent twins, got on my last nerve the moment I heard them speak. They barely shut up throughout the entire 2.5 hour movie, daggering us with badly imitated ebonics and hackneyed street slang the whole, entire time. They wound up being redeemable characters after a while, striking some significant blows to an impressive adversary, the Decepticon combiner Devastator. Otherwise, they were jibber jabbering idiots who needed no inclusion in the movie. If I were Optimus Prime, I’d have shot them myself.

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To boot, the lead character Sam Witwicky’s college roommate Leo wasn’t much better than the blabberjabbering twins. He wouldn’t shut up either. Leo is a conspiracy theorist who gets roped into the human/Cybertronian drama, and won’t shut up about his rights and who can force him to this or make him do that. He spoke at a very rapid clip in a whiny, scaredycat inflection most any time his mouth was open throughout the entire film. At times he exhibited an exaggerated b-boy, badass air, but was never ever just calm or chill or what have you. Blabba blibba blabba jabba jibba talka talka talka bla bla bla bla bla shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up shut up SHUT UP!!

So, the movie held my attention because I’m a Transformers fan. The movie will hold non-fans’ attention with near constant, over-the-top destruction and explosions, utterly superfluous, gratuitous sexual references, and equally superfluous attempts at crass “humor,” a la, John Turturo in a thong, and a pair of clanging, pendulous nads on Devastator.

If you can handle the negatives, watch it. Watch it someplace nice with stadium seating and great sound. The movie’s worth splurging on a better theater.

I took the photos from www.transformers2.net, and then I altered ‘em.
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The Studio Stroll was a lot of fun

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Boy am I wiped. It’s the Tuesday following the RDA Spring Studio STroll for 2009. I’m here in my studio trying to wrap my head around the day and make my to do list.

Anyway, for tough times, the stroll did me reasonably well. The Zombabies were incredibly well received, so were the Glumys. I only made 7 Glumys and they’re gone already. The Zombabies have been reduced in number by a reasonable half. You can find the rest on the Merch page.

The stroll began rather slowly on Saturday and took a good half day to get really rolling. People visited me from Roanoke, VA, Georgia, South Carolina, Hawaii and of course locally. All my juju fish were eaten, which was fine. I’ve had juju fish out now for quite a few strolls for the people to chew on while they ruminate a possible purchase.

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I was really pleased to see Belma Jean Rhodes and Sirius Allergees go to a Georgian couple. It’s rare you see two of my big ones go at the same time. I’ll miss them a lot. But soon I will have replaced them with other monsters. I’m not all that worried. Though, Sirius bore the last remnants of a brown sweater my sister gave me for Christmas one year. The sweater had become too small to get my head through, so I hacked it to bits and made Sirius.

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Local metalsmith David Earl Tomlinson and his son Drake came in to play for a bit. Drake drew me a really great monster in my guest book. David Earl is working next door to my studio temporarily. See his website dynamicmetalwork.com.

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Next on my list is writing a book, developing character concepts, a little big-industry toy design, and more production of more monsters for more shows. I love being an artist. I must watch for falling boulders.
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Ugly ROTF Transformers Toys

Hi, Everybody.

Gotta get something off my chest. As a die hard fan of the Transformers since age 9, it is a dream come true to see them on the big screen in live action situations. As a toy designer, I’m also quite impressed with how well the live action movie characters have been made into toys. Though, two items from the up coming movie really make me want to puke. You’ll find out why after I dig and delve for a bit.

I got my first Transformers toy, the Autobot Jazz, for my ninth birthday back in 1984. I have loved the Transformers ever since. As a child, as you’ll find unsurprising, I preferred playing with stuffed toys than with toy cars and trucks. I was utterly unimpressed by toy versions of machines of many kinds.
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When Transformers hit American TV screens and stores, I was immediately hooked.

I don’t know much about the history of Transformers, and without going into too much detail, I’ll say what I understand. Various lines of Japanese robot characters which had “alt” modes as machines, weapons and vehicles were acquired and branded under one name, the Transformers, and marketed to Americans. If I’m wrong, please point me in the right direction.

I’m dilettantish at best when it comes to the history and the expansive “why” behind the Japanese fascination with, and prowess at, robotics, robot toys, their function, design, implementation and application. But what stood out to me was the basic concept at heart; machine becomes humanoid.

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First I saw the toys in stores. I was fascinated. Friends started getting them for birthdays and such. I was jealous. Dad got me Jazz. I was thrilled. At last, I could relate to cars and machines. Even in vehicle mode, I knew there was a person waiting inside my new toy Porsche ready to come out and interact with hands, feet and face. The artist/creator/maker within me really resonated with the challenge of making all the humanoid parts fold up, become and fit within a realistic looking machine. I became quite impressed with the many applications of that challenge.

As the transformers line grew and changed, the standards were raised on points of articulation and poseability. The designs became better and better. Realistic machinery (or believable machinery, in cases of non-earth vehicles) now became even better looking, better functioning anthropomorphs.

The odd asymmetrical arm, or weapon instead of a hand popped up occasionally, and for the most part I enjoyed that. It’s okay to take liberties with anatomy. We’re talking about fiction and toys and imagination after all. But. I feel the need, as a lifelong, devoted disciple of design, and a throw-myself-in-front-of-a-train adorer of Transformers, to draw a line in the dirt, and take a stand on a couple of recent items.

The recent, live-action Transformers movie, and the new one coming out this summer, feature robot characters that are a lot more alien in appearance than the toys and cartoon characters we’ve known in the past. I understand this was a directorial decision made to emphasize the characters’ otherworldly origins. It took me a little while to warm up to these character’s sharp, jagged, covered-in-cutlery appearances.

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But these days I really like the alien robotic aesthetic. I think it works for the movie. As well, it raises the standard yet again for toy design. Everyday machinery must now convert into much more complex forms that still retain basic human anatomy and hold true to their alien movie nature. But recent characters for the 2009 movie represent an unfortunate departure from this high standard of conceptual design. For such a well-funded and well implemented couple of movies, the characters and toy versions of Demolishor and a new version of mega-popular female Autobot Arcee are just downright pathetic.

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Look at Demolishor (the red and grey one pictured). He’s a Decepticon from the new live action film Transformers; Revenge of the Fallen. He’s made up of a teensy head, floating between two great big arms, and suspended by pegs over a massive, tipsy topsy wobbly wheel. Given the complexity and detail of the other characters in the new movie, this one doesn’t belong. This one, for that matter, barely fits within the Transformers aesthetic at all. Granted, there have been other Transformers with nontraditional anatomies, like Beast Machines Rattrap, who, in the cartoon had two wheels instead of legs. His well-designed toy version featured the option for wheeled legs or traditional ones with feet. It’s not Demolishor’s non-humanoid arrangement that bothers me. What bothers me is that such a great looking machine (the power shovel pictured) flubs and splays open into a gangling, clumsy-looking interchange of poorly supported and inarticulate parts.
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Most of the power shovel’s mass is frittered away on the gargantuan shoulders and gorilla arms. Those titanic arms appear to have no forward articulation and look more like buttresses to the otherwise unable to stand figure rather than working limbs that reach, grab and pose. I imagine the other Decepticons have to feed him and help him go to the bathroom. The floating wheel atop all the dishevelment of Demolishor’s body is also a head scratcher. It looks like it could topple forward and roll off. What is it there for? Perhaps I’ll discover what it’s for in the movie. Perhaps the movie version of Demolishor looks incredible with that anatomy. Perhaps he uses his unique build in savvy, unpredictable, terrifying ways. I’ll know when I see the film. But I’m sure the toy version could have had a bit more effort spent on detail, design and transformation. He looks like a ride at the fair.

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Similarly, the current movie version of Arcee, arguably the most popular and influential female Autobot in Transformers lore, has a wretched toy form. In the 1986 animated Transformers the Movie, Arcee was introduced to the world with a futuristic car alt mode. Very, very few attempts have been made to create a toy version of Arcee that remotely mimics the original movie version we’ve come to know and love. Many different toy versions of Arcee exist. Most of them are motocrycles. I think the vaunted character deserves a higher regard than this from those who make the toys.

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Even though she wasn’t a character in the 2007 Transformers movie, there was a toy version of Arcee within that movie’s toy line. I liked that version, even though it was a motorcycle. Apparently attempts were made to animate that version for the 2007 movie. I was under the impression we’d see that version of Arcee in the upcoming Transformers movie, but apparently we will not. Quite a few rumors fly about which version of Arcee we’ll see in this movie, but if this is the toy we’ll get, I’m thoroughly disappointed. The red motorcycle pictured is a nice looking machine. It apparently unravels into a jointy intestine of a robot, with bits of motorcycle kibble hanging off of it. It needs a stand, for pete’s sake, because two wheels alongside each other do not support a body. In fact, two wheels alongside each other are not, in fact, legs (unless you’re Beast Machines Rattrap).

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I feel about this toy the same way I felt Ironhide (and ratchet) from the first generation of transformers. His brethren transformed from amazing machine forms into very nice looking robots. Ironhide, on the other hand, started out as a red van (I have no problem with vans), which promptly lost its roof, entire cargo/passenger section and rear doors, leaving the windshield, grill and axels to become a scrawny looking runt of a robot, utterly undeserving of the name Ironhide.
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The other 70% of his mass turned into some strange looking tank/sled/jetski thin with a cannon on it. Nifty concept, but inconsistent with the high standards set by the rest of the brand. Ironhide’s cartoon appearance was a much more appealing sight, and since then, attempts have been made to create a toy that pays homage to that cartoon form.

If only Arcee could have the same attention paid to her toy version. Collectors all over the world would go nuts for an Arcee toy that looks like Arcee. Enough of grabbing whatever transformer you want and painting it pink and white and trying to pass it off as Arcee. Enough building us up with CGI images of really rad movie concepts, then punching us in the neck with the (pictured) Red Spaghetti Cobra Monster.

I love Transformers and will remain a devoted fan. I hereby submit that the directors, decision makers and toy designers, however thickly buried within the Transformers world, escort ROTF Demolishor and ROTF Arcee to the kill room, do what needs to be done, then return to the drawing boards, having taken stock of the very important legacy which they now perpetuate, and start the heck over.

Images provided by www.siebertron.com, www.tfw2005.com, www.ntf-archive.de and wikipedia.

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Obh Mubh Gbuudness.. I cabn't feebl mby lipthth!!

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Hi, Everybody,

I’m just back from the dentist. As you can see from the photo the local anesthetic is making half my face droop. What a hilarious trip. I like my doctor and his staff quite a bit now. I’d gone in for an exam several months ago just to see which way was up, since I hadn’t been to the dentist in nearly a decade. The doctor told me I had two little places in need of filling and one spot they were gonna keep a close watch on. So, long story short I had all that done today. I was told that there’d be like an hour wait between the cleaning and the fillings, so I brought my laptop with me to continue writing the new book.

Didn’t get much done with that, I’m afraid, but that’s okay. So, a friendly hygienist named Cindy led me back to the slab where we both shared our interest in running charity races and our deep disdain for hot weather. So she checks my gums, makes a few “hmm.” noises. I found those rather telling. But all told, my mouth wasn’t that badly disgusting. The past near-decade of dentistry-free tooth management had done me rather well.

Right now I’m trying to slap my face and get some feeling back in my cheek. I’m trying to eat a bagel and I don’t know how much pressure to put on my food. According to National Geographic’s Dr. Brady Barr, a human bite measures at 120 psi (pounds per square inch). I’d tear my cheek to bits if I bit through it right now! Thank goodness for pain, keeping us from chewing ourselves to shreds on any given day. Anyway..

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Apparently, behind one’s bottom front teeth, the plaque and tartar tend to build up in greater quantities than anywhere else in your mouth. The Cindy commenced scraping, picking, pulling and . I thought for a sec we’d discover that my bottom teeth were nothing more than stalagmites of pure tartar, and would eventually be scraped and scratched away to nothing. So now I’ve got just acres of space in between my front bottom teeth. I will never stop fumbling my tongue between them. It’s such an interesting sensation! I should call the Wal-Mart people (may they burn forever in a thousand-foot-deep pit of terror) and have ‘em open up a new superstore behind my bottom incisors. Then vote them out with an unexpected local public uprising.

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So I had to have a couple of teeth capped today. One of my aforementioned bottom incisors had worn down from a lifetime of nail biting, and one of my molars had just not been professionally seen to in a decade or so. Stuff like fillings tend to happen when you don’t visit the dentist y’all. At any rate, the worst is over. And as an added bonus, the new cap on my bottom tooth changes my bite just enough that I can’t grip my fingernails like I used to, so we may be witnessing the end of an era. One can only hope.

Anyway, back to work.

Thanks,
John
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Lessons Service Page Updated

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Hi, Everybody. Click on Lessons now, in the Services tab. It’s been expanded and enfleshed. I’ve told a little about some of the teaching situations I’ve been in, and created 3 galleries. One to show kids at work making creatures, one to show adults, and one to show other professional sewers (who look remarkably like the plain old adults in the other gallery but are actually professional quilters and fashiony sorts).
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Granted, the categories are quite general as kids show up in the adults section, and adults show up in the kids section, and it’s very likely an amateur or two snuck into the pros. But that’s okay. You’ll get the gist. Go have a look. I’m sure you’ll like it all.
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Back to Production.. More Zombabies in the queue.

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These guys are the most fun to make. Rather than doing as I did with the last run of 7, I’m sort of processing all 8 of these at the same time. I spent a while yesterday just doing arms. When all 16 arms were done I stitched hair on all 8 heads. Then I attached inner mouth to outer mouth 8 times, and so on and so forth.

Next I’ll finish up stitching their ears, then it’s time to do teeth and tongues.. That’ll take a while, appliquéing 64 teeth into 8 mouths.. I’m looking forward to it though. They’ve received enough of a good review that I want to keep on making them.

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Ideally, I’ll be saving all these little guys for the studio stroll happening in just under 2 weeks. I need back stock before I open my doors to tourists. But in the interest of covering all my bases, I’ll have them posted to the Etsy page as well. If one sells during the stroll, I’ll just remove it from display. If one sells in the shop, and then on Etsy, I’ll simply refund the Etsy customer with an apology. I’ve done this before and I don’t think it’s cheating.

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Anyway, time for me to get to sewing.

Thanks everyone,
John

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Gallery Update

My goodness gracious.. I’m about brain dead after finagling the inner workings of the gallery pages. If you hover on the Galleries menu tab, a list of its sub menu items pops up. Similarly, if those sub menu items have sub menu items of their own, they’ll pop up if you hover over the sub menu item in question. And so on, and so on, and so on.

I like that feature reasonably well, but suppose I want to save my viewers the confusion of so many sub menu tabs popping into existence? I’ll check the forum and see if there’s a way I can turn all that off, at least for some of the sub menu items.

Anyway, I’ve started adding groups of creatures into sub menus based on the story lines I’ve been developing. Each time I make a run of creatures, often I’m using the same techniques over and over again, and thus the individual creatures in the run look very similar. They become a family, or a unified group of characters. So that’s how I’m posting all of the new creatures. If any of that makes sense to you, I’d be pleased. At the moment I’m kind of bleary from doing all this messing around with the website.

I await your critique on functionality and simplicity.. if there is any left.

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So, speaking of new postings, even though he was on the website before (you’ll notice that the previous “new creatures” page has changed drastically), I’ve got Dr. Morticius Drathmave with me here. He’s listed on Etsy as Drath. In fact, you can see him still in the sidebar as he’s quite unsold. He’s the last of a particular series I have left. Anyway, Buy him. He’s cheaper now and he’s a great fellow, having recently turned over a new leaf.

Take care, everyone!
John
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Another Services Update and I'm getting really buffed for summer.

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RRAARRR, Everybody!

I’ve just had the morning workout with my housemate Chad, and I’m headed for the shower before embarking upon the last week of my day job at the school. We’re only doing half days now since state budget cuts require a furlough for all state employees. We’re taking a pay cut too. It seems a bit heartless to brush all this off and say “we’ll survive,” but those of you my age have grandparents who survived much worse back in the 1930s. Things might get tougher, but hold onto your sanity everyone, and don’t let your hands go idle. In fact, pick up thread, needle and old clothing and try your hand at making something. Crafting whiles away countless hours otherwise given to ennui. Crafting engages your mind and your body and makes you feel really great. So, I digress.

I’ve made some more updates to the service pages. I’ve added photos to the sock creatures page and enfleshed the custom plush jobs page. Next I’ll work on explaining my lessons/classes service then it’s on to illustration.

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On the radar for changes I wish to make soon are improvements to the galleries. I’ve got just loads of new work images to post. They’ll cover the bases of what I’m up to these days even though I’ve let so many creatures fly the coop (go to customers) without taking the time to photograph them. That’s a really rotten habit of mine. It comes from lack of planning most times. Anyway. Continue flipping through this new incarnation of stupidcreatures.com and enjoy the content as it develops, Enjoy as well my ginormous biceps. They rather feel shaky at the moment.

More later! Thanks!
John
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