Wednesday, December 25, 2013

So Here It Is... etc

Good morning and good tidings, readers!

Time for another annual yuletide-themed video. A bit obvious, this one, but it has been getting quite a thrashing at the Monkeyhouse after Jet Jr discovered it (mix-disc courtesy of Al over at Phasmatodea), not to mention work dos,  and I tried, but it seems you can't get Top of the Pops Slade without an especially intrusive gremlin DJ at the end. Never mind, hang your stockings on the wall, everybody, and be sure to listen out for the turnip on his sleigh...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In the Beaut Midsummer

[NB: This post was being written on Christmas Eve proper, before a two-hour power cut cancelled proceedings and sent the Simian family instead to a candle-lit evening in front of an open fire. There's an irony in here, somewhere]

Santa's pants - or maybe just two red towels? Wellington, December 23rd 2013
It's Christmas Eve here in Wellington - happy festive season, wherever you are.

Sort of early apologies to my northern hemisphere readers who may be at this moment either waking up to the Eve, or even attempting to make their way to work (shudder)before a brief midwinter holiday, and then another one for New year's. Weird - how do you people do it?

Down here of course it's the middle of summer - although with today's weather you'd be surprised to hear that. Christmas in the middle of summer brings its own dilemmas for this simple Simian. Somewhere between curmudgeonly tut-tutting at the proliferation of cheap imported winter-themed tat, fake snow shopping displays and culinary stodge, and half-embarrassingly giving in to the whole upside-down tradition. The sad fact is, Christian observations aside, we're caught once again (as with Halloween) in the wrong hemisphere to be celebrating a mid-seasonal feast (hence the stodge) to keep the past literal wolf from the door. Down here, laden down with the obligatory ham, turkey, force meat and fruity pudding we'd be wolf-dinner rather too easily in the heat.

Really, it's a ridiculous premise, the tradition of fortifying oneself against the hardship of a long winter in the middle of summer with orchards and fields groaning with produce. Mind you, with cherries currently at over $11 a kilo... but I digress. Next Christmas, after grumbling about this to anyone who can't get out of earshot, I'm actually going to do something about it at the Simian abode. The Christmas pine can be replaced by a Pohutukawa, the holly and berries can feel the steel cap of my monkey boot and be exchanged for brilliant red and orange karaka berries (that puts paid to the 'pukeko up a ponga tree' nonsense as well - with karaka come the kereru or wood pigeon - even mid-winter a much more appetising bird), and latter-day cuckoo of Santa's retinue Rudolph the Red-nosed earworm Reindeer can give up his 'Sant-Nav' duties for local upstart Stickybeak the Kiwi. There - job done, and we can give a boost to our own endangered species of mistletoe too, while we're at it.

So, you see, this isn't just jingoism - it's a plea for regional diversity and putting a bit of local context into a seasonal observation that's laughably beyond irony wearing its wool-lined Santa hat in the sweltering afternoon sun. It's right and good that there are versions already about - Christmas cards can be found locally and easily with sun-kissed beaches, board-shorted Santas and pohutukawa in flower jostling alongside snowmen and red-breasted robins, and local versions aren't hard to find, really - as strings of brilliant colourful jandal tree-lights indicate. Enough of this seasonal denial, I say - let's band with our Trans-Tasman cousins and claim a proper summer Christmas with no denial!

[NB: This blog does agree with local mid-winter Christmas parties too, because they are aces]

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lead Time Lords: The First Doctor (1)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Guv’nor, the First Doctor as played by William Hartnell.

I don’t think Harlequin did a bad job on this one. It is a tad generic, but compare it with the previous version created in the Eighties by Citadel Miniatures:

Already the two, while posed similarly, are quite different creations. What I like most about Harlequin’s offering is the face – there are hints of Hartnell’s mischievous grandfather Time Lord in the sculpt, whereas Citadel’s caricature is the sort of thing you might expect a newcomer to the series might present as a summation of the first Sixties Doctor – old and stooped, cantankerous and difficult to love. There’s a whole story of the actor and his complicated part in the role he’d come to define and inhabit still being told in fandom and to the series’ viewers. Mark Gatiss’ wonderful An Adventure in Space and Time does much to redress the balance, but we could also do with examples shown by Harlequin here, not so much recasting but reaffirming the youngest of the Doctor’s incarnations as an occasionally impish, curious citizen of the Universe.

The detail is also kind on this figure, although the fingers are perhaps a little roughly defined, and the face of my model had frightfully sunken cheeks and a moulding line across its mouth – not an easy flaw to remedy. That said, it’s a relatively easy one to paint if you don’t include the trousers (three passes, including one with a fine non-permanent pen) and the face, which I paled up a little to indicate the relative age of the Doctor and also reduce any contrast with his white hair. It’s something I could have done less with previously on the Third Doctor figure, actually, but will probably concentrate more next time I’m up to painting that particular incarnation. There’s going to be another First Doctor figure to come as well, although that’s some time off yet as well.

Additions include a golden(ish) sandy base (the First Doctor explored the Gobi desert, Saladin’s Persia, Ancient Egypt and the desert planet Aridius on television); my reference for this is a still from the (at time of writing!) missing serial popularly called Marco Polo. I’ve seen a few Hartnell Doctor figures painted with grey trousers, but I’ve gone for the more ivory colour shown in that story as well as others around it (Reign of Terror being another). Green stuff was used to fill in one of the cheeks (it really was quite a deep depression) and fashion the First Doctor’s rather practical blue-stoned ring, shown off by Harlequin’s regular ‘hands clasped across the chest’ Doctor pose.

And that’s the First Doctor done!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lead Time Lords: The Third Doctor (1)

Here’s my next Doctor paint-job from my lead Time Lords project: Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor. It’s another Harlequin model, and one of two that the sculptors did (I’ll cover the other one later).

 As it is it’s okay – the likeness is pretty good from a couple of angles (although I’ve observed in the past that he does also bear an uncanny resemblance to local politician Winston Peters), but it’s a pretty static pose, reach as it does for something a bit more dynamic The Doctor thrusts an accusatory finger at an unseen person – yeah, that’s sort of Pertwee-esque, I guess.

The costume he wears is without doubt his Season Eight/Terror of the Autons model, with purple-lined stain cape and red velvet jacket with some nice black frogging on the front.If that last sentence suggests to you that I’ve been frequenting cosplay blogs in search of colour clues for painting, then I admit it – I have. Pertwee’s Doctor is quite the clothes horse, with seemingly very few episodes where he shares exactly the same outfit (I could check, but probably won’t, that he even finds time to change between Frontier in Space and Planet of the Daleks, technically two interlinked stories.) Sadly, this mainly-black ensemble is the one we have, and after starting earlier with the First and Second Doctors, I’d got thoroughly sick of black by this time, and so I’ve added some other colours to my blacks, in an effort to try to introduce some sympathetic blending.

Thus, there’s some purple in the Doctor’s trousers here. I’m not sure if it entirely works, of r shows for that matter, but it makes me feel a little happier. I could, of course, paint black gloves on this Doctor as well, but, really, life’s too short. The only positive thing I could get from that is being able to overlook the distinctive Greek coin ring that Pertwee wore on one hand (fashioned from a relic he found while diving in the Mediterranean, you know) Otherwise it’s black shoes, black trousers, black cape and black frogging. With a dreary match-up like that there was only one thing for it base-wise, and that’s a vivid mustard-coloured rocky surface, recalling the famous tenth anniversary Radio Times cover. And we’re done!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lead Time Lords: The Eighth Doctor

"I'm a Doctor - but probably not the one you were expecting..."
Like you, dear reader, I imagined I’d be kicking this whole Paint A Doctor carnival off somewhere logical, like, for instance, the First Doctor. More fool us. Yes, My William Hartnell figure is in the mix, and very near completion, but first, here’s a chap I completed earlier than Bill: the Eighth Doctor, played by Paul McGann.
This Eighth Doctor is the last TV Doctor model made by Harlequin Design before they went out of business and their moulds were purchased by Black Tree. It came out not too long after the 1996 movie and, well, it shows. 
Most of the Harlequin range is idiosyncratic – heroic scale miniatures are almost by definition exaggerated and would look quite horrifying at human scale; but there’s something even more disturbing about Harlequin’s Eighth Doctor – the bubble perm, the slightly outward-bending legs (not an uncommon affliction in their DW range, I have observed), the weird hand clasp – and on the whole the figure has a sort of end-of-the-line rushed look to it. It’s incomplete in detail, and comes across as a little cursory – perhaps a fitting treatment for a cult TV hero who at the same time had been given short shrift in his homeland and was in the process of being farmed out to the ignorant colonies for a second chance at survival.

But I digress wildly. Here’s the Eighth Doctor, the only version around to this day (although, watch this space…) It’s actually a pretty straightforward model, and I’ve painted him as well as I can, including a couple of passes at doing eyes (I hate doing eyes and most of the time avoid it if I can), and some time taken with washes and blends to get that elusive bottle green/shot black velvet effect on his Doc Holliday jacket - though it comes out a lot more green in these pictures than in real life. Harlequin really didn’t try too hard on the costume here , and the hand positioning doesn’t do them any favours, but given the lack of overall ‘pop’ to the Eighth Doctor’s ensemble, I worked a bit to find opportunities for contrast and detail. Ergo, some green stuff buttons front and back, and a fob chain (nobody knew in 1996 how important fob watches would become to the series) were made, and I painted his cravat a grey-blue, rather than yet another variation on grey or beige as in the TV special itself.

The Doctor’s hair I’ve left untouched, simply because I think I’d do more harm than good in attempting a re-styling. Finally, the all-important base. Originally this was to be a Seal of Rassilon, in keeping with the motif in the movie. I had one all painted and ready to go, but faced with a crisis of application – I don’t like to cut the bases of these guys, I replaced it instead with some light card floorboards to represent his Vernean wooden TARDIS interior, and I’m pretty happy with the result!
Mrs Simian on seeing this figure complete thought it pretty good, then said as an afterthought, “It is Tom Baker, isn’t it?” You can’t win ‘em all.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Doctor a Day?

Well, it could happen. I won't tempt fate, though!

November has come, and with it the 50th anniversary of Twentieth Century Time Lord the Doctor. And, maybe, time to dust off my old figures for a tidy-up:

This is the last time I'll post one of these old WIP shots of the Doctors as they were back in 2009, I promise! To recap, I wrote these guys up back here, and to be honest, some of them have come a wee way since this photo was taken. Not a huge way, but progress was made before I turned my attentions to Real Life and more recently my Hobbit-themed figures. Since then a few variant figures have arisen (Crooked Dice Miniatures in particular did a couple of rather nice Eleventh Doctor figures), word has it that heresy have a John Hurt-themed 'Doctor' figure lined up for the forthcoming anniversary episode, and then, of course, why - it's the turn of Mr Peter capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. No figures yet, of course, but I believe sculpts are in process and will turn up sooner or later...

In the mean-time, there's space to finish off these bad boys. Like the Hobbit figures I've not just painted the figures, but also added bits and pieces with green stuff to bring their likenesses into line. And I'll blog on those as I go, of course.

Wish me luck, and don't mention the November 23rd as a deadline!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Doodle a Day: 31/10/2013

Happy Halloween/Splendid Samhain everybody!

here is th capital it's been trousering down with rain today, with the CBD's north-south streets like Featherston and Taranaki producing the dreaded spring and autumnal 'wind tunnels', ergo... sideways rain by the skip load. Not great for running off to work in, or waiting for a bus home, but not too shabby for dissuading those pesky Trick or Treaters!

Anyway, in honour of Featherston Street and Halloween, here's a nifty, shifty combination of the two. Pleasant dreams, Mr Meromo!

And, with October drawing to a close, that also wraps up Doodle a Day; a pleasure and a challenge, but something of a relief now it's over. Thanks to everyone who's followed, chanced upon this thread (you know who you are and I know what you were drawn to!) and especially those who've commented on and off to blog - I might yet revisit this in time, though probably not this year!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Doodle a Day: 30/10/2013

Second to last Doodle for this month, and while I'm also two days shy of the Day of the Dead, here's my little candy skull character and his seedy leedle friend:

Libido and Mortido were my first proper cartoon characters, and found their way into two or three issues of Dunedin comic zine Treacle, as well as (via reprints) a Wellington zine nearly ten years later. The characters, if you could call them that, were pretty much one-liners: Libido the helpless and hopelessly deluded priapic would-be Lothario, and his buddy, death-obsessed risk taker Mortido. neither could resist their respective temptations, although in the limited run of stories I steered well clear of giving ether guys what they wanted - Libido especially. What can I say? I was a squeamish cartoonist.

Mortido was my favourite, and was (and clearly still is) the easiest to draw. His design had actually sprung from an earlier idea of 'Dead'-themed single panel cartoons ('Dead Tired', 'Dead Heat' etc.) Libido, on the other hand, resisted any sort of consistent drawing throughout his life - to this day, in fact. Usually the inspiration for his weirdly exaggerated proportions was a cortical homunculus. Those things creep me out, and so it should be no surprise that Libido I generally find a chore to draw.

I haven't drawn these guys in maybe fifteen years! I should plant a tree or something.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Doodle a Day: 29/10/2013

A late post tonight as I just went and saw Gravity. Wheee! What a movie! Anyway...

Halloween is almost upon us, so time for some spookier doodles. So far I've done the ghost of a werewolf, and then more recently a werewolf... so just to shake things up, here's a ghost!

A Japanese ghost, according to my dream of 24/9/2010 after which I woke and scrawled: "Along a winding coastal road in a late 70s car (a Charger?) Young woman's head and shoulders emerge from out of the road ahead. I have to be careful as, if she emerges fully and has no form below the ribs and waist [stop sniggering back there - Ed] she is a ghost." Despite that, apparently it was okay, she wasn't a ghost, but my memory doesn't record whether I stopped the car or just kept on driving!

The image in my head is as you see it above, so don't get any ideas about the nature of my dreams, okay? In fact, my little dream diary records no fewer than three Japanese folklore-themed nocturnal flights, including the above (which, according to Wikipedia might be called a teke teke or something), a dream about a creature with a dish-like head full of water called in my dream a 'Golle' (although in Japanese folklore it might properly be called a kappa), and finally the most cryptic of them: ""19/9/2010: I'm writing on creatures of Japanese folklore and find reference to a [fit?] I don't know the name of. Nearby creatures help out with cards and suffixes/tables for the purpose."

Clearly, I was going through 'A Phase'. Thanks for not asking what it all meant!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Doodle a Day: 28/10/2013

Today I broke a rule of Doodle a Day - but it was a late rule. I re-drew the same subject when an earlier attempt- well, earlier attempts, had failed. Lou Reed did not resemble Brad Garrett nor Paul Holmes, so I had to do the late, great grump some honour...

Lou Reed was for a long time in my youth an old man, when he was really only the age of my Dad. I knew of him and The Velvet Underground in my teens, but I was a little stunned to realise that he made the album that really introduced me to his solo work - New York, when he was only two or three years older than I am now. And these days, 71 is old, but not OLD. To some people, he's probably still the young man of the Velvets, the glammed up street punk from Transformer at least.

But I digress. New York was one of the soundtracks to my first year of university, and in following years I'd learn a few VU songs through fellow bands (one of our contemporary groups, My Deviant Daughter, did a running and not-entirely faithful cover of Sister Ray) and shared music collections - White Light/White Heat, Heroin, Venus In Furs... lots of stuff novel, ground-breaking, or just fun (I'm Sticking With You, naturally.) And what I heard of Songs for Drella, I liked.

I don't own any Lou Reed past the Trainspotting soundtrack. I think I might try to rectify that really soon. When Jet Jr wanted to hear some David Bowie from You Tube today, I suggested we listened to something 'David' had made with his friends 'Mick' and 'Lou' instead; and so we listened to the singles from Transformer, which is where I might as well begin.

A pen sketch of Lou Reed wasn't of course what I'd planned for today, so today's idea will probably be posted tomorrow.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Doodle a Day: 27/10/2013

For the second time this month I find myself drawing a werewolf! Odd.

Anyway - a worked-up pencil study for a picture of said beastie surprising a warrior wumman PC (Player Character), based on an old D&D game of distant memory.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Doodle a Day: 25/10/2013

This doodle is really not my best work...

..but Jet Junior is.

Jet Jr turned five years old today, finishing kindergarten and starting school - a new era, and a new adventure for a young man who's already had quite a life to date. Five years ago he wasn't supposed to be in the outside world for another twelve weeks, and since then he's been the most important thing in my life, next to his mum. It's a cliche, but parenthood changed me in my outlook, my work ethic, and my place in the world; it's truly been one of the most humbling, awe-inspiring, heart-breaking, life-affirming and terrifying experiences I've ever been through, and I never want it to end.

Happy birthday, young Simian. May you find as many pleasures in life as you did doing this four years ago:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Doodle a Day: 24/10/2013

Another quick one, today. This is a straightforward pen piece worked from an earlier pencil sketch. How early? Well, I first drew it in 2005, and found it today in a notebook.

This is a view out of a hospital room window, looking out onto the roof of what was the Middle School in Oamaru, a school which my Mum attended as a girl, but which was for many years of my life employed variously as a band hall, clubrooms and costume wardrobe space, before finally being restored and re-purposed as part of the new Oamaru Hospital. I drew it while visiting that Labour Weekend, sitting idly at a bedside, because my mind was wandering but I didn't want to be anywhere else, especially. I remember at the time feeling a little guilty that I'd taken my attention away from the person sleeping in that room, but at the same time I knew I wanted something to look back at and remind me of that time in times to come; so here it is.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Doodle a day: 23/10/2013

Hello, and welcome back to Doodle a Day - the home stretch!

Today's doodle is a reaction to all the line art I've been doing recently. I feel like I've been shirking my responsibilities a little by under-drawing (or under-filling) my work; however, with a busy work and home life at present, I haven't really got time for big, detailed pieces, so today's contribution isn't too far a stretch, and it's monochrome again - but for good reason this time.

Cydonia was a comic strip I created back in the mid-Nineties for a small and plucky local Doctor Who fanzine called Telos. Taking its cue from Alan Barnes and Adrian Salmon's Cybermen one-page series in Doctor Who Magazine around the same time, Cydonia started out as a potted history of Doctor Who's resident Martians, the Ice Warriors. Within a couple of years Telos folded, and after a few more years I felt strongly enough to resurrect Cydonia and finish it, this time in another zine, and Telos' virtual successor, Reverse the Polarity!, which survives to this day as NZ's last remaining (semi) regular Who zine.  In RTP! the strip was rebooted and ran for four years - easily the longest sole illustration project I've undertaken, and in that time the story evolved into something of a elegy, with a little more depth and character than the original strip had contained. I'm still rather proud of it, though I must resist the temptation to revisit it again!

The above illustration, then, is an idea of a 'cover' for an imaginary compilation of the strip, incorporating an Ice Warrior, 'clamps' aloft (a familiar pose to anyone who's seen their eponymous debut story), main character Haaga, and the skull of a Locust, the series' creepy prehistoric bogeymen, inspired by the alien Martians of Quatermass and the Pit. The 'C' formed from the clamp is my nod to Salmon's contemporary cover for the charity zine Cosmic Relief!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Doodle a Day: 22/10/2013

Hello, and welcome to another fifteen-minute job. Today it's another cartoon because I am tired and have guests. Normal, loose and scrawly service will resume shortly.

In the mean-time, presenting: Pescarosa, Last King of Atlantis!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Doodle a Day: 21/10/2013

Time for another doodle! Today's attempt was another swing and a miss, so here's attempt two and a different topic:

It's another robot from my Wild West series - a barkeep!

(Edited to add: Colour version has now been restored! Issue was: I'd saved it as CMYK rather than RGB - rookie mistake!)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Doodle a Day: 20/10/2013

Today's fifteen-minute wonder sort of fell apart in the delivery; so time for a hasty replacement:

Here's Jean Saturn, Angel of the Southern Cross and the first woman astronaut of the New Zealand Space Programme.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Doodle a Day: 19/10/2013

Another quick biro doodle. If I'm honest, this took a little more than fifteen minutes, but really not much more in the biro stakes at least.

In this day and age with Doctor Who still enjoying large audiences, even (ironically) in the US, it's become quite fashionable to diss the 'failure' that was a long-shot 'back door pilot' of the 1996 Paul McGann TV Movie. You can read more about the effect and influence of the realised TV Movie on Zeus Blog, but how to explain the image above? Well, it's another idea for what might have been seen in a TV series had early plans for a US-led Who come to fruition in the early Nineties. The 'Cybs', cyborg scavenging space pirates, are often blighted with the scorn of Who fans who see them as a poor and unimaginative Cyberman pastiche. I think that's unfair, and even in the brief sketches and descriptions that can be gleaned from this abortive series bible, you can see that creator John Leekley was attempting something different - a fusion of mad Max/Road Warrior post-bomb savagery with elements of cyberpunk and space opera. Unlike the Cybermen of the Seventies and Eighties the Cybs have names, entertain themselves with belly dancers, and exist to plunder - a far cry from Who's emotionally-removed anonymous drones,whose schtick in the early Nineties was itself being seriously plundered by Star Trek's Borg Collective. Had we seen the Cybs appear on the small or big screen, I think they'd have fared better than popular belief might have it, and maybe it's only the fact that their story ideas in the 'bible' are adaptations of classic Who's Cyberman stories that really offers comparison. They could have been hokey, cheesy even - but they could have also been scary and a lot of fun.

My biro went a little bit fluid here, and perhaps I shouldn't have erased the original pencil, because what appeared on the page before that looked like something resembling the work of fantasy artist John Blanche. Ah well.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Doodle a Day: 18/10/2013

And this, readers, is why I didn't fully shut the gate at 11pm during a blustery full moon last night:

I actually adore wetas. They're spindly, clumsy and prehistoric looking, but in some species, like the Wellington tree weta above, there's a robustness that does make them look like something you wouldn't want to mess with. Like a tiger they have stripes, but they're really quite docile, and I'd say more than a few local beauties have fallen prey to the odd domestic cat or even those urban eco-terrorists, the hedgehog. I'm certainly not scared of them, but was keen enough to give this girl the space she needed - I've been nipped before by accident when one fell out of the roller door as I was opening the garage one morning (it fell down the back of my shirt, so I can't blame it), and those nippers are the real deal; used for fighting when they're not slicing into tree bark they're probably responsible for the odd dismembered weta leg I've found at the top of our (hedgehog-proof) steps.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Doodle a Day: 17/10/2013

Wow. Ten minutes to draw, ninety minutes to do a cursory block fill on Photoshop. I am so tired...

A Brit-Cit Judge, today. Based mostly on the original design by Brendan McCarthy for the Judge Dredd story 'Atlantis', and I really think it's McCarthy's looser design aesthetic that saves the uniform. To me, McCarthy is a second-generation heir to Mike McMahon in his subtle but iconic reinvention of the Judge costume. There's something endearing about the taller busby-like helmet, the grim lion face and the colour play (later versions of the judges from future Great Britain have them in a colour scheme closer to the green, yellow and black of Mega City One. Boo) that McCarthy brings in, that just doesn't carry through to later versions by other artists. Of course for this to be a true McCarthy rip-off there should be a quirky (and still unexplained) star on Judge Lord's chin. Just because, it seems. But ehh, nah. Plus, by going for a poster art, thick edge style here I can fudge it and claim I'm also referencing the work of Jack Kirby devotee Shaky Kane. Yes, that's it, I'm referencing Shaky Kane. And now I'm off to bed.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doodle a Day: 16/10/2013

Another quick biro job: the 'Hammerheads', weird, lrgely mute primitive creatures of wood and bone who rose out of the Everglades to destroy the world of men, or something.

I was sixteen or seventeen when I created these guys, putting them in a comic strip that lasted all of one A3 page before I lost the thread of where I was going - presumably something great;y inspired by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neil's Nemesis the Warlock, I'd say.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Doodle a Day: 14/10/2013

Another downtown Wellington building today; the Harcourts Building.

This has been a highly contentious structure, and the July quake and a recent Environment Court ruling on its owner's intention to demolish its well-under-code structure means the controversy won't go away. Given the astronomically high cost of strengthening it, its owner (having paid hundreds of thousands in legal fees fighting his case already) has all but walked away from it, saying he'll leave it to nature to demolish the structure through neglect. On a day like today with gale force winds in the Capital and grey, wet weather making the building facade look even grimier and unkempt, his vision of a grand old dame of the Golden Mile falling to rack and ruin seems to be happening already.

So this is my doodle of the day; a modest building in Chicago Gothic style slowly bringing some of the wilderness back into an urban space. I won't over-romanticise it - it's a terrible situation which could (god forbid) one day kill somebody. let's hope it never comes to that.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Doodle a Day: 13/10/2013

Hello. I dedicate this hastily-scratched piece to the much neater and deservedly more professional Jeff Dee (on whom I will blog shortly). It is titled: The Pilgrims Encounter the Last Wild Turducken.

Sorry for the scratchiness; I think I killed a Uniball doing it.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Doodle a Day: 12/10/2013

Edited to add: By sheer coincidence, Russell Brown has recorded his memories of the Queen Street Riots over on Audioculture. Check this definitive record - and some disturbing 80s fashion, out!]

This is going to take some explaining, so bear with me.

Twenty nine years ago I had a legendary weekend. I remember it that way because in the main, it was twenty-nine years ago and time has been kind to my memories. I was fourteen, the first exams of my high school life were over, and my friends and I had ditched our uniforms to go camping. Being all still scouts then, for the most part the camp was the small matter of polishing off some requirements for our Duke of Edinburgh Awards by enduring twenty-four hours of dry rations and going on a very long walk. We saw there was nothing in the handbook that said we had to do any of it remotely, let alone in a tent, so off to the local Department of Forestries campsite we were driven, with Tony’s parents’ caravan on the tow bar. Left to our own devices for two days and two nights, we were determined to have a good time, free of the shackles of school and family. We couldn’t drink, and only a couple of us smoked, but at fourteen there are plenty of other diversions you can occupy yourself with unaided by chemicals: you can listen to loud obnoxious heavy metal music, fight, ogle the Girl Guides also camping nearby and show off in front of them. Reader, we did all four, and hold me back, but they were worth the flat batteries, the bruises and occasional tears, and the dark looks we got from Stanley, father to a certain young thing we each attempted to chat up by the river. Stanley needn't have feared for the safety of his daughter's virtue, really, although I can't say I blamed him when it looked like he was going to chase us back to our pop-up Crusader with murderous intent. In all we did the stupid things four adolescent boys deprived of real food and cramped in a small family-sized caravan in the rain might do. When left without a working fridge our jelly never set, and we ate it anyway. Rock and/or roll!

Not that it was Youth In Revolt that weekend; certainly not at the Herbert State Forest campsite. However, up at the other end of the country another story was unfolding, Friday night being the 7th of December 1984, which saw Auckland's Queen Street come riotously alive after crowd control at a free open air concert went oh-so wrong. Time having now passed considerably, the whole event is but a small footnote in the history of New Zealand music. But at the time, listening to the incredible news on our ghetto blaster radio, it seemed for a short while that the future was there for anyone young and hungry enough to seize.

The soundtrack to that weekend is in my mind a mix of the hits of the day ('Purple Rain', The Cars' 'Drive', 'Wild Boys', Scandal's 'Warrior')  and the track-listing to Jeff's brother's Heavy Metal compilation Head Banga, a blistering run-through of fantastic hard rock anthems, from Deep Purple's 'Black Night', through Iron Maiden's 'Run to the Hills', Billy Squier's 'The Stroke', Tygers of Pan Tang's cover of 'Love Potion No. 9' and 'Rock and Roll Outlaw' by Rose Tattoo. Anyway, that album is lost to the ages now, and if I ever remember all of those songs I'm going to burn my own version of it, Readers, and this picture is what I'll use for the cover.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Doodle a Day: 11/10/2013

Today's doodle is a picture over thirty years in the making: my childhood creation, the not-at-all-derivative Katipo-Man, and his mysterious nemesis, Mantis-Man.

Obviously the costumes have been modernised, but the designs are pretty much the same. I really must blog about these guys properly some day.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Doodle a Day: 10/10/2013

Hello, and welcome back to Doodle a Day, where I submit a 15-minute doodle to blog-o-vision.

Today's topic, just pulled out of the air. Jamas suggested I can't draw hands, and so this one's for you, buddy:

Hmm... I wonder where I could get one?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Doodle a Day: 9/10/2013

Another rather quick job tonight after a busy day...

This is a... 'Mandarindroid', I suppose. Specifically an android modeled after a Western (maybe Wild Western) stereotype of, well, a Mandarin gentleman.  Hrm.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Doodle a Day: 8/10/2013

Today's doodle turned out to be a bust, so as it was a Kiwiana topic (a future coat of arms for a spacefaring Aotearoa), I dug into the old Dream Diary for something similarly -themed, and came up with this:

Dated 1 October 2010, and 'found' in a Auckland law firm display case with all the descriptions above included. Seemingly they were not only buttons but also legal tender because we were truly fancy back in the day. 'Maori Showband gigs'? I dunno - presumably throwing hard cash at the acts was a big thing then, according to my subconscious. Also, the glitzy, kitschy Seventies specimen was quite rare and is now highly collectable, so look around the house and see if you have one or two still!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Doodle a Day: 7/10/2013

Sticking with the monochrome today and what do you know? Also my time limit! Reasonably happy with this one - at least the hands are okay, though the foreshortening...

Anyway, if you're in the other hemisphere then today is still the 6th of October, Olivia 'Anderson' Thirlby's birthday. Happy birthday, Ms Thirlby!

I recently rewatched Dredd for the first time since its cinema release a fortnight ago, and I still really enjoyed it. Most of all, despite Karl Urban being absolutely the best casting in it, I really enjoyed Anderson's role as the viewpoint in the story once more. Smart, smart move, and Thirlby handles the character well. There's a trace of the future cocky self that Anderson in the strips displays in her first stories,but overall there's more of the self-doubt and emotionally-based questioning of the machine in which she's a reluctant cog  that came to define her in her mid-era stories. Dredd's a linear character for the movie, really, but if a sequel never comes to pass then I'll be sorry that the working relationship it promised between Old Stony face and his rookie never gets its pay-off. In her opening scene when Anderson gets a glimpse inside Dredd's mind there's a real seed of potential there for future characterisation that I'd really like to see.

Also, it occurs to me that amid the talk I'm reading these days about Marvel vs DC/Warners movies and the lack so far of a female-led superhero movie, that it would be so cool if DNA Films and Lionsgate beat both studios to deliver a one-shot movie about a strong female 'superhero' that isn't defined by her bodyforming lycra or pneumatic chest, but by her fitting more of a Ripley mould; a postfeminist heroine just doing her job damned well, with an engaging and sympathetic humanity to boot. Hell, pit her and her psychic abilities against her oldest enemy Judge Death (save his cronies for later) and then we can have a Dredd sequel without his version of Mega City One going all jarringly Ghostbusters.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Doodle a Day: 6/10/2013

Sticking to black and white for the moment; and a simple line drawing - part caricature, as much of my work tends towards these days...

It's Terry Thomas!

School for Scoundrels (the original, don't punish yourself) is somewhere in my top ten films. If you haven't seen it, man, I don't know what to say to you.

Doodle a day: 5/10/2013

Thanks to Baz Luhrman and his overlong Gatsby adaptation, yesterday's post of the below image and some colouring went out the window, bt a change is as good as anything, so it's a barer, monochrome doodle this time.

And it's a doodle with people! I realised that one skulking Batman wasn't going to cut it in the variety stakes, so here's another dream-based image, of a bar being set high up in (apparently) an old workplace with fancy mod cons, trendy patrons, great skyline views and an aquarium in every window.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Doodle a Day: 4/10/2013

Day Four, and I suspect I've been straying a little over the fifteen minute time allowance for my early doodling. I'll be honest, not all of my doodles arrive fully-formed; most are doodled in pencil then inked and the pencil lines erased, and that changes the picture. But I don't fix anything in Photoshop - that's definitely against the rules, and in the end Photoshop is used as I said it would be - for optimising the picture for web use, and for colouring it in if I want. But nothing complicated - frankly, complicated colouring-in is waaaay beyond my Photoshop skills!

Anyway, that said, I thought I'd try something simpler today and stick to my time limit. When an earlier idea simply didn't pan out, I decided to adopt a new rule: if an earlier idea doesn't pan out, start a BRAND NEW ONE. And here it is - based on a single word jotted in one of my doodling pads: the Ectopanzer!

I should also stress that, unlike the various buses of Wellington's CBD I have no handy tank around to draw from, so it's a tank from my imagination - don't go checking to see if it's an actual Panzer 'kay?

(Jeez, I don't think I've even drawn a tank in thirty years...)

The Local Gods

Last week The Almighty Johnsons finished, ending what has for me been one of the great, short-lived Kiwi TV series.
I know a good number of people who didn’t watch TAJ, and even some who wouldn’t watch it because it wasn’t “their thing”. Even I was skeptical before it aired. For some the fantasy element was a turn-off, while even among its followers it seems the show might not have been ‘fantasy’ enough, grounded as it was by a small country’s TV budget and envying the FX clout the likes of bigger overseas series like Supernatural (which is probably a close comparison) wield.  For me, however, the mix of fantasy and the series’ ‘real world’ aspects was balanced perfectly; so much so in fact that I’m bewildered that more didn’t watch it, including friends of the Simian household. The show is about Norse gods inhabiting the bodies of very normal, very relatable Kiwi brothers – what’s not to understand about that?
It’s the balance inherent in the Johnson brothers and their Asgardian alter egos that was crucial to the critical success of TAJ. A series simply about quarreling gods on a quest I’d have no interest in (particularly on a smallish TV budget shot in West Auckland; we’ve been here before), and similarly if I were to follow a series about brothers who rub each other the wrong way then it would have to be pretty interesting for me to get through episode one. TAJ did that with its essential third ingredient; its adherence to the traits – clich├ęd or not, of the Kiwi male. Taciturn, not particularly graceful or articulate, stuck playing roles in a man's world which, in some cases (Mike, Axl) they’re not the best at, and all the while resisting using their questionable godly powers (with the exception of Anders) to draw attention to themselves. Add to the mix the expected god rivals of Loki (how fitting that an amoral trickster god should inhabit the form of a corporate lawyer), a cabal of minor goddesses led by the brothers’ own mother, and the sometimes absurd coming-of-age and coming-to-terms of the youngest Johnson destined to become the great Odin, and you have a pretty good premise for one series at least. The quest of the brothers to find Odin's elusive Frigg, thereby assuming their full godly powers and leaving the world of men, however, was a thread that ran throughout the three years, kicking into gear well and truly in 2013.

I genuinely believe that if it wasn't for the daggishness, the frustration of family dynamics and male communication, and the adherence to a real-world low fantasy motif, I'd not have been a fan of TAJ at all. But how can you not be a fan of a series that posits wise god Baldr as a laconic stoned surfer, its god of poetry Bragi a pathological PR shill, or (best of all) its demigod Thor as a failed goat farmer from the Waikato with a hammer from Bunnings? Fantastic. And, conversely, not fantastic. Added to that is the genuinely smart plotting and scripting writing under Outrageous Fortune's chief scribe James Griffin, some brilliant twists and turns, and, that blessing in modern television, a satisfying series conclusion. The series 3 DVD is already available; hopefully we might see a box set with the entire series in it. Waes thu hael, Johnsons, you've been quietly Almighty - and good on you, mate.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Doodle a Day: 3/10/2013

Time for another quick doodle post!

Not much to explain for today's effort: two robots fighting- or are they buses?

I'm a bit long in the tooth to be an 80s Transformers fan, though I do appreciate the aesthetic, and the idea - well executed - is a pretty cool one. I'm not pretending for an instant that this is well-executed; it is what it is, a quick knock-off scanned and coloured roughly in Photoshop. But that's it for now, and something you're probably not likely to see down the main streets of Wellington these days.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Doodle a Day: 2/10/2013

[In which your humble blogger draws one doodle a day and blogs it]

“Smokey is the Ghoooost!”

Here’s an early insight into the dreams I have. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

The above phrase is fifty per cent of what I recall of the dream I wrote down sometime in the early morning of the 1st of November 2010, the other fifty per cent being pretty much the image below, of a ghost werewolf emerging out of a chimney stack.

My subconscious obviously thought it was worth my rest-time conjuring up, but to this day I’m blown if I know what it all means. There’s plenty more where that came from, trust me.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Doodle a Day: 1/10/2013

 For the past few weeks I’ve been hard at it most evenings finishing off some open-ended hobby work – a D&D adventure here, some miniature painting there, and all for my next wee blog theme.
‘Doodle a Day’ is a project I’ve promised myself for a few years now, and one which I intend to employ to kickstart a period of concentrated illustration work that (fingers crossed) will be coming up. I am an itinerant illustrator, really. Untrained outside high school, but an inveterate doodler, so I thought I should try to combine the two and see what happens.  The result will hopefully be an illustration blog for the duration of this month, with no set theme or style – I’m trusting that one or both will develop as time passes.
Here’s how this will work – the rules, if you will:

1.       I draw a fifteen-minute doodle - one per day, on any subject.
2.       I scan it and optimise it for public consumption - and no more
3.       I can colour it later if I want, but no more than that.
4.       I post it, with a brief explanation of its provenance.

Just to be sure I’d not be short of inspiration, some illustrations may be based on an earlier form of this project, ‘Doodle a Dream’, which ought to be self-explanatory. In 2010 I kept an irregular (in every sense) ‘dream diary’ – basically a bedside notebook on which to scrawl – sometimes literally, what I could recall from any dreams I’d woken from. Being then a parent of a young child with eccentric sleeping patterns helped the process, but I fear some themes crept in, and so I’ll space these out with more mundane subjects if I think things are getting a little bit ‘trippy’. Maybe I’ll explain which ones are the dream-based doodles, or maybe I won’t!

And so, here’s the doodle for today, the 1st of October 2013:

This is one of my favourite buildings in the Wellington CBD. I like it because it has some key points of interest: it’s a clock tower, it has a frieze on top of it and a cool spike that might be useful for tethering passing zeppelins to, and being an Art Deco-era sandstone building surrounded by a mix of modern and older buildings, it’s pretty unique in the Wellington skyline. Not that it makes much of an impression, as it’s steadily being dwarfed by the office buildings around it – hence me being able to look down on it almost from my work! The best bit about this building? The clock doesn’t work because the building’s upper floors house a hotel, and the very clock tower structure is an apartment, with the clock faces as its windows. Now that’s cool!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Roll20: The Beast of the Broch

Well, as promised, via the online usefulness of Roll20 last weekend I GMed a game of my own creation, an old school Basic D&D game called The Beast of the Broch, with three other guys and only an equator separating one of us from the others.

The result? An experience actually not too different from my past games - we over-ran on time (by about two hours!), there was a last-minute stand off/scramble to escape on the PCs' part (which ran smoother than in previous games due to this one being simpler and having some 'emergency exits' built in), and I want to do it again soon! Ultimately we used a minimum of Roll20's features - an online dice roller (though we turned off the graphic interface), a map builder with separate levels for players and the GM (fun to make, but I spent nearly a week creating these due to me being a little too particular), and the text-box chat function which, when Skype fell over on occasion, was a perfectly fine compromise.

So, all in all a fun game with some joking around, some 'character moments' or opportunities for genius/heroism/novel alignment play for the PCs (something I work at to foster in my games as it makes them more satisfying all round), and a bit of mystery. There' some discussion of the mechanics behind the game story after the jump below, but in short Roll2 provided most of the short cuts I needed (apart from the monster stats, roll tables and the like - a handy GM shield close by did the job though) and removed some of the messier game mechanics while still providing the visual clues and dramatic dice rolls. I'll stick with Roll20, I reckon, and see if I can't unlock some of its other features to ease play a little more.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Visit: Phasmatodea!

I'm taking a brief but highly worthwhile moment here to promote the blog of my very good friend Al Hughes (one half of the power duo behind The Crate Outdoors blog), which launched just last night.

Phasmatodea will look at some similar subjects of this very blog, and Al explains:

"Politely known as ‘genre’, I’ll mostly, (but not exclusively), be sharing science fiction, horror, fantasy and adventure films, TV, books and other media which have fired my imagination throughout my life."
And as one who fortunate enough to enjoy frequent conversation with Mr Hughes over these topics and many more, I don't think I could possibly oversell this blog. It's been a while coming, as they say, but the results are admirable. It's early days, of course, but he's already outstripping my post rate, and before long I hope to synch the odd entry with Al, as Jetsam has on occasion with The Truth Behind.

Phasmatodea begins here - enjoy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Legends of RPG Art: Dave Trampier

Depending on where your loyaties lie in ranking the early artists of the Dungeons and Dragons rulebooks, the work of Dave 'DAT' Trampier will probably at the least lie in the top two. I've expressed my admiration for the phantasmagoria of Erol Otus' work already, but it's fair to say that if at my age you found Otus' work a little goofy (as I did back then), then the more realist and studied work of Trampier would probably suit you well enough. Working primarily with pen and ink and employing heavy light and shade contrast - frequently in a pseudo-woodcut style, Trampier's illustrative work for the Players Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual afforded all three volumes some real gravitas, particularly when set against the work of his fellow illustrators. Which isn't to say Trampier couldn't deliver with the fantastic monsters - in fact, classical and traditional beasts seemed to be a forte of his; here's the arch-demon Baalzebul, for instance, while his tiger-in-a-smoking-jacket Rakshasa, sinuous Medusa and ragged, wild Wight have become notable versions of those creatures, despite clear or not-so-clear descriptions preceding his work. In fact, like Russ Nicholson's Githyanki and Otus' Drow, it looks as though Trampier's Wight has in fact become the definitive version of this creature.

Of course, an artist as talented as Trampier could also be relied upon to bring life to the more mundane monster as well. here's one of my favourites of his from the Monster Manual, a creatively laid out illustration accompanying the entry for the Giant Wasp:

Note also the traditional garb of the unfortunate warrior - horned helmet aside, this smacks of early D&D aesthetic to me; recalling historical war gear for its heroes rather than Hollywood avant garde. Somehow making the appearance of the human in the piece more rooted in human history (or at least conventional Fantasy of the time) makes the wasp appear more natural as well - and yet, for its size, all the more threatening with it.

Elsewhere, Trampier's work is celebrated as much for its tendency towards vignette as its simple illustration. Mention the captions 'Lost in the Briars', 'Honour Amongst Thieves' and of course 'Emrikol the Chaotic' to a well-seasoned player and they might understandably go all misty-eyed at the instant mental picture each summons; Trampier's skill in composition and execution of often dynamic scenes were simply that effective. This does bring an interesting element out in Trampier's work, however, as down the years eagle-eyed admirers of his work have discovered some real-world bases for his D&D portfolio, such as the street Emrikol races down in his orgy of destruction being the real-world Street of Knights in Rhodes, or his Cloud Giant portrait borrowing heavily from a 19th century etching from H J Ford. It's likely a testament to Trampier's following that such discoveries haven't been framed as attacks on the artist's creativity, but offer instead a knowing wink to the man's obvious talent and broad influences.

Perhaps the most-celebrated of all Dave Trampier's work is, fittingly, the cover for the original AD&D Player's handbook, an enticing scene of dungeon-based plunder that, to my eyes at least, look like they might yet invite more trouble than those giant gemstones are worth...

Legend has it that Trampier himself appears in cameo as one of the adventurers in this piece - possibly the chap in brown, centre left. The picture is another or Trampier's most famous vignettes and has been much reproduced, imitated and treated to homage by fans and admirers alike - Wizards of the Coast even used a reworking of Trampier's cover when relaunching the D&D line a couple of years ago.

Outside of the three manuals Trampier produced work for TSR's other RPG lines, including Gamma World and TSR's own RPG magazine Dragon, for which the artist employed his equally-accomplished cartoon techniques for his long-running and much-missed back page serial Wormy, which really brings me to the final chapter in the story of Dave Trampier as a fantasy artist. In short, for reasons best known to the man himself, Trampier abruptly and seemingly without explanation severed his connection to TSR, the gaming world (in which he was also a developer) and illustration entirely, apparently resurfacing reluctantly some years later in a newspaper feature about cab drivers in Carbondale, Illinois, and shortly after this time it became more widely acknowledged that the man wanted no part in his former career or legacy (more can be read here.)

The man has probably inspired more artists than he may imagine (myself included), and yet  the circumstances of his disappearance and lifestyle change should be respected and rightly left to the man himself. Dave Trampier's work in cartoon and illustration form is rightly revered among older fans for its unique style, consistency and undeniable imagination. Here's to you, Tramp...