Balder Updates

Some reposing work done in Zbrush....


Progress over break....

Our family in NC got a new computer for Christmas. Ontop of being able to write a draft of my thesis, with Zbrush available as a trial download, a pen tablet here at home, and all of my 3D models stored on Mfile, I'll be able to work on getting my prototypes ready this week while at home!

My first goal is going to be to pose Balder for at least 4 of the dioramas, and the next goal will be to get the Sphinx and the Lady ready for prototyping. After that, I only have two more characters to build (an old robed man, and a shadowy figure for diorama #6).

After my IP midterm presentation (to which I received some great feedback) I'm considering the environment of the fourth diorama a little more and set in the back of my mind the possibility of upping the 'drama' in my first diorama (but that will only happen when I am in a comfortable position with the other 6 first). I sort of like the ambiguity of Balder's pose in the piece ("startled but unconsciously confident" being what I went for), but I think the Nightmare he's looking at could be a lot... scarier. We'll see....


Quick Update

You can DYE celluclay with foodcoloring when you mix it. Why didn't I read Sheperd Payne's How to Build Dioramas more carefully before starting the forest?!

Oh well, lesson learned. I'm gonna try it with the cliffs/ doors combo that I'm making for #6.

No photo updates for awhile, since I'm back in NC for break. Instead, I'm going to try and learn some more Arduino programming and get my thesis written....

(Side note - I need to draw more.)


Too embarrassed to post a photo update

Ok so usually when I'm working on a piece of art I go through a phase where I can't stand it/ hate it/ wonder why I even thought it was a good idea to try and make. This is usually when I'm about 2/3 through. I'm sure this happens to lots of people.

Well, I'm about ready to pitch the forest diorama in a bonfire.

I started painting the ground, I had this whole brilliant "fade to the edges" idea, but now it just looks like a bunch of oversaturated mud that blends into a lame attempt to mimic sand (which is not my intention). To make it worse, everytime I apply washes with acrylic on the celluclay, it kind of contracts and shrinks, lifting off the foam base. Sweet. The areas that should be filled in so that the creek can be poured without leaking have cracks all over the place, and it seems like everytime I patch it with celluclay, I just make more cracks.

I may have thought of a solution on the car ride home- for the color fiasco anyways. I think I just need to make the ground cool blues/ purples/ grays, like the staircase. Then I can leave the trees mostly white. I think that color range would serve the thing much better. It'll make the creatures in the scene look more organic as well.

I only have one more work session before I go home for break and too much that I want to do- redo this crappy forest base layer, start laying out diorama#6, making many miniatures doors for diorama 6, making a mould of the archway, posing Balder in Zbrush, doing edge tests with burlap/ cloth....


Digital Updates

More work on the characters for dioramas 3 and 4....


The Forest....

...Takes a long time. A really long time. I'm still not finished covering the foam after several 3 hour sessions. But it's a lot further along than it has been.

The good news is, this is probably the most labor intensive diorama of the set of 7, so I'm glad I am knocking this one out. Also, it's really, really fun, I just have to keep breaking that perfectionist barrier where I spend too much time contemplating on how I want to execute the piece, and just do it.

The bad news is there is still so much left to do: painting the base and trees, adding the moss, pouring the water, creating the "ceiling," and resolving the edges....


Picture Dump

...In preparation for my presentation.



Working on Fleshing out the trees, handling the edges, and getting celluclay (paper mache) on the base....

Forest photo update coming tomorrow

So I've bought some more stuff for the forest: fake foliage, moss, tree stuff, etc. We'll see how well it works (I'm optimistic). But to get to the point where I can Cellu-clay the whole base, I really need two things:

1- More wire... lot's more wire. I probably need at least 75-100 more background trees.

2- A Shop Vac... the foam residue from the knife carving/ sanding is getting obnoxious.


More Sphinx

Messing around in Zbrush, getting reaccustomed to my workflow, re-learning how to transpose....

Forest/ Altar Updates

(Why do these pictures upload in reverse order?!)
The Pedestal for the 4th diorama (with wired light:

The Archway (will be casted 4 times) for the 4th diorama:

Forest with paper mache base in some places:

Big shot of the whole diorama:

Sphinx - Base Mesh

Got some work done tonight on the physical forest and the digitally created critter that will help populate it. Pictures of the base mesh after going from zspheres in Zbrush to Maya, then back to zbrush....

Finally, we don't have morning practice this week. Which means I could work a little later up on North Campus without fear of fatigue's swift retribution the next day. A teaser of how much differently I could/ would structure my life without gymnastics (but do I even want that? Not really, not yet.)



A refresher image of Diorama 3 ('Lost Forest' or something like that):

And a quick color study of number 4 ('Prophecy'):
The challenge with number 4 will be combining the serene/ grand/ awe-inspiring nature of the pillars and lighted fountain while creating an aura of anger around the main character. At this stage in the narrative he is very angry and overburdened (note that he himself appears in the central arc).

The Woods begin...

All Student Show

I got the diorama inside the wall, lit, and running off the Arduino program! It will be in the Slusser Gallery on North Campus as part of the All Student Exhibition until December 18th.

Inside the wall (I learned a lot about the installing process with this)

Inside the wall (you can see all the wiring)

Finished piece looking in from the gallery


Gallery Installation in Progress....

Sorry for the lack of updates, but I have nothing to show recently (but will very, very soon).

I'm Figuring out the Arduino, slowly but surely. My issue now is when I have multiple lights plugged in and on at the same time, they get way too dim, as if the power is spread too thinly among them....

The code I wrote for my bedroom lights:
(This code keeps one light one, one light flickering every 10 seconds, and one light flashing every 10 seconds)
int Pin13 = 13;
int Pin12 = 12;
int Pin11 = 11;

// The setup() method runs once, when the sketch starts

void setup() {
// initialize the digital pin as an output:
pinMode(Pin13, OUTPUT);
pinMode(Pin12, OUTPUT);
pinMode(Pin11, OUTPUT);

// the loop() method runs over and over again,
// as long as the Arduino has power

void loop(){
digitalWrite(Pin13, HIGH);
while (digitalRead (Pin13) == HIGH) {
digitalWrite(Pin12, HIGH);
digitalWrite(Pin12, LOW);
digitalWrite(Pin12, HIGH);
digitalWrite(Pin12, LOW);
digitalWrite(Pin12, HIGH);
digitalWrite(Pin11, HIGH);
digitalWrite(Pin11, LOW);



Oh man, just had the most awesome IPiphany (as Kimmy Lennex would say).

I messed around with the Arduino microcontroller and learned that it can function as both a programming system and a straight up battery. My electrical wiring woes are over! Ontop of the fact that I can now just buy a 9V power adapter and not have to worry about wiring it to a 3V LED, I can also, with a little more programming/ circuit knowledge, wire up to 13 LEDS onto this one controller and program them to all do different things. I've gone enough of the tutorials now to understand how to wire 1 light, program it to flash at differing intervals, and wire it through a breadboard with a resistor.

Just wait till I start wiring lights into trees that fade/ flicker/ flash. Epic-ness coming real soon.


3D Sketches

Quick Maya rough mockups of Diorama 4. Dioramas 5-7 will probably come later today (at least number 6) but I am still making some content choices on 5 and 7. These 3D sketches will probably help with that, though....

My two biggest obstacles with my two current dioramas in progress are:

1: Lighting. I still need a better understanding of electricity, wiring a circuit in parallel rather than in series, and a knowledge of resistors so that I can hook a 3V LED to a 12V circuit and not destroy the light.

2: Side panels: With the staircase and the forest, I have a pretty clear vision of the background panel and what that painting looks like to blend in with the 3D environment. But I don't know what to do with the side panels... do I treat it like a stage and just leave them out or paint them a solid color? Do I paint an extension of the environment into them as well? Since they aren't primarily seen when viewing the dioramas, and since perspective can get wacky when viewing 3D and 2D elements from a strange angle, I'm still struggling with how to handle them....



Pretty happy with the result... now I have to find a way to give the opening between the two doors an illuminated space. I'm thinking a thin white tissue paper (or something similar) with a small dowel support. How should the doors open to reveal the light on the other side? Slide apart? Swing forward? Swing inward?

And, off topic, but this picture below shows why the University of Michigan is awesome. This is a prescription anti-inflammatory package that I had shipped to me from Missouri. The pharmacist (who I don't know at all) must be a Maize and Blue fan:



Pictures (boring and unpainted):
Floor with cracks/ stone carving

Staircase setup with extended piece and backboard


November is freakishly intimidating

My goals:

1. First Diorama finished and presented at student show (Nov 16th).
2. Second Diorama ("Forgotten Door") finished (without case) by Monday, November 9th (currently, I would call it 30% done)
3. Third Diorama ("Wandering Woods") finished (without case) by December 1st
4. Sketches of remaining dioramas presented at faculty reviews.

I have plaster-sculpted the floor, stairs, stair extension, and door pieces for the second diorama. Main staircase is fully painted. I would have pictures, but I forgot to take my camera into studio. Tomorrow....


Less Talk, more Pics

The Staircase (I need feedback: does it look refined or sloppy? Stylish or shoddy? Surreal or... not surreal....)

Sweet simulated tree bark that's stylish and aesthetic (in my opinion)....

New Studio Setup with the workbench....


Where The Wild Things Are= Jungian Coping Mechanism

Interesting read on Where the Wild Things are from a Jungian perspective- arguing that Max deals with anger via his imagination/ projections (which would be the land of the Wild Things).

This is eerily similar to the coping mechanism for Balder which drives my narrative dioramas (I loved WTWTA as a kid, but hadn't recently considered it on a psychoanalytic level, though in retrospect I suppose it's not that hard to see). So I was pleasantly surprised to see parallels in the method of WTWTA and the development of my own work.

And, the author parallels WTWTA to Jung's Red Book, which I posted on earlier. (!) I think I'm onto something conceptually with all of these interests of my constantly overlapping.... It reassures me a little bit that my narrative may actually be valid.

Experimenting Results

Smooth plaster carved with a tool (gave a nice cracked effect with the foam base)

Wiping away the paint left an interesting texture

Bark tests (wood dowel from freshman year! and modeling paste). The area just left of the center works the best, I think.
My workzone (note the developing staircase)

Mark Powell

I got an exciting email from the weekend: a reply back from Mark Powell, a diorama artist whose "dream dioramas" are simultaneously surreal, disturbing, macabre, aesthetic, and contain that "so gross I want to look away but can't" aspect about them. He's really polished his craft and I was humbled that he was so helpful in providing me insight, wisdom (and encouragement) into the world of diorama making.

Among the list of things I asked were a couple of technical questions and some inquiries about his creative process and thoughts on the importance of visual storytelling. I got some really great information.

A sample of his work (courtesy of www.markpowellart.com)


Rock Castings

Experimenting with plaster over the foam bridge. I like the 5 or so minutes you have when plaster is between a liquid and setting, the point where you can mould it with a knife....

Also, I broke the excess out of the pouring bucket and smashed it around with a hammer a bit, giving me some good extra rocks of various sizes....

Experimentation Results

More experimentation today. The foam/ plaster combo gave me some pretty good looking rocks. Messed around with acrylic paint, spray adhesive, the wire foam cutter, and fake foliage for a mossy effect.

Foam seems to give me the best armature for a base, but what to use on top? I really like the look of the paper mache rock (the round one partially covered by moss.) I sprinkled foliage on it after I took these photos and really liked the result. I don't know if paper mache will make good carved stone though.... Might have to keep up with the plaster.

My best rock (plaster chip and acrylic paint)

Foam bridge, rocks, foliage/ moss

The round paper mache rock (hard to see in the pic, but it has a great texture)

My dining room table. Thanks to my housemates for putting up with this for a couple days....


Museum of Natural History

Today in studio was experimenting with plaster and foam, trying it out at various stages of its hardening onto foam, carving/ texturing it, breaking it, etc. Pics of those results once I do paint tests on them. For now, pictures of beautiful shadowboxes at the NYC museum of natural history (check out the viewing window of the nautical one- it establishes an interior viewpoint with an external window):