Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day 350

Here is my Breaking Bad crayon which is my favorite carving I've done so far. I loved the show so I was looking forward to giving this a try. The gun behind the back was inspired by the pose Jesse has on the Breaking Bad wallpaper I have on my desktop. I think it's a nice extra touch and adds some asymmetry. My favorite part is probably the zipper. I'm not sure where I got the idea to carve in the individual teeth of the zipper, but I'm glad I did. I'm really happy with how the whole carving turned out and funny enough, it's not really that hard to make. For a lot of the other crayons I do, I have to be very precise about everything. But here, it's a guy in a baggy yellow jumpsuit so I can carve away without having to look at reference images. For this carving, I obviously had to add in a lot of other colors via melting which seems difficult. However it's mostly small areas of color so it wasn't that bad. I figured this would be a good example to explain some of the finer points of melting wax.

This carving used three melted wax application techniques. The first is adding a bulk amount of wax to the surface of the carving. This includes the hands, gun and pink filters. These structures did not exist on the initial carving. I added in the melted wax drop by drop until the bulk of wax was large enough and then I carved that to the desired result. This is in contrast to the shoes and the mound of blue meth. Both of these structures were initially carved into the yellow crayon. Here the melted wax was brushed onto the surface almost like paint. Instead of a bulk, a thin layer of wax is applied. This technique is useful for coloring a large area but it's much more prone to color bleeding which is when the melted wax ends up melting the solid wax it is being applied to. This bleeding isn't that noticeable when adding a bulk of wax because it ends up getting covered by more wax. It's harder to hide with a thin layer though. For the blue meth, I place a layer of white first and then a layer of blue on top of that to minimize the yellow bleeding into the blue to turn it green. The last technique is carving into the surface of the crayon and then filling that empty space with melted wax. This was used for the white and black of the gas mask. The black wasn't simply placed on top of the yellow. I carved in grooves and then filled those grooves with the melted black wax. Then I carved it smooth so it was flush with the yellow wax. The rules of bleeding wax still apply though which why the white has a yellow tinge to it. 

When I finished the crayon, I remembered that I had a small chemistry flask and thought I could use it to hold the crayon. But the flask ended up being too big. I was still enamored with this idea, so I went online and ordered smaller flasks. They were the smallest ones I could find and they still ended up being too big. My brother had a centerpiece from a wedding he recently attended. It was filled with slightly blue broken glass pieces. So I took those and put them in the flask to elevate the crayon above the rim. The glass isn't quite as blue as the meth on the show but I think it all works well together.

Day 349

I've mentioned before that even though I don't watch Doctor Who, I wanted to make crayons based on it since it has a rabid fan base. I made a Tardis a few days before my Tumblr started trending. It did not look that great. Difficult things for me to carve are straight lines and flat surfaces. The main tool I use has a curved edge which makes creating something perfectly flat challenging. Unfortunately, a Tardis is made pretty much completely of straight lines and flat surfaces. Since I wasn't happy with the end result and I now had thousands of new followers to judge me, I ended up not posting the first Tardis I made. The Tardis you see here is the second one I made. It's not perfect, but I think it's pretty good. The blue ended up bleeding into the white but that's something that's very hard to avoid. One of the dental tools I have has a square flat end which is just the right size to carve in the square shapes on the sides of the Tardis. Without that tool, I'm pretty sure I would have rage quit in the middle of making it. 

So why do I have a cat paired up with a Tardis? About two months ago, I joined an online Secret Santa on this geek centric website's forums. Based on the previous year's gifts, I was hoping some generous person would be my Santa and get me cool stuff off my wishlist. Sadly, I ended up with someone who bought me just one item that was below the minimum spending limit. Oh well. I looked over the wishlist of the person I had to get a gift for (I already knew when I joined I would give them crayons). I saw that they liked Doctor Who and cats. That gave me the reason to try making a Tardis again and then I carved the cat above. To be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time on the cat. The body was easy enough but I had trouble with the head. I wanted a more cartoony look for the face which clashed with the realistic head shape I carved. It could be better but she loved the gift anyway and that's all that really matters.  

Day 348

I got a request to make a C3P0 crayon. I made one while ago using a normal sized crayon. I didn't really like how that turned out though so I never put it up on Etsy. With this request, I had a chance to right that wrong. I used a large sized crayon this time. With the larger size, I could have a more detailed face along with adding in features of his torso. I liked all the details I was able to include on the body. However with the head having the same width of the body, he looks a little anorexic. For the head, it was mostly carved normally. I had to melt and apply wax for the eyebrow ridges and the entire halo around his head. I like how he turned out but he still looked a little off to me. I think maybe it's because I've never really looked closely at him and don't have a good mental image of him in my head.

I had another request for Chewbacca. I had planned on making him at some point so having some pay me was pretty good motivation. My original idea was different from what's here. I planned on having some shoulders and torso with his bandolier going across. I started carving inward around the head to create the shoulders. I quickly realized that I was losing space for the head and maybe I should stop since I wanted maximum space to work with. With no shoulders, there wasn't anything to indicate where the head actual ends except for the crayon wrapper so I had to be careful that I didn't tear too much off. Carving him was a little challenging. It didn't help that he seemed to look different in every picture of him online. A heavier texture for the hair probably would have been more accurate but I'm ok with the lighter lines here. The area around his mouth could be bulked out more. I'll do that the next time I make him. Overall, he isn't as good as he could be but he's better than I was expecting so that makes it a success.

Day 347

So I sold my Game of Thrones set to some guy in Australia awhile ago. Shiu Pei still had the crayons in her possession so she offered to ship them to him. Unfortunately when they arrived, most of them were broken. I'm guessing that Shiu Pei wrapped the whole framed set in bubblewrap. That protected the frame but I think the crayons just rattled around inside during shipment and broke. I was annoyed at first but I've sent off crayons myself that ended up breaking so I couldn't really blame Shiu Pei for something that I've done myself. In the end, it wasn't that big of a deal to make new ones. Instead of spending the weekend watching TV, I just watched TV while carving crayons. It was also a nice change of pace from the usual things I was making for my store. Interesting how what took me weeks to do before, I can now do in a weekend.

Some of the crayons ended up more or less the same, some were better and some were a little worse. Here are the crayons that I thought ended up better. Up top is the Stark direwolf which is I think very much improved. The first one's head was too long and narrow and dog looking in my opinion. This one is more robust. I liked it so much that I added it to my Etsy store by itself and have sold a few since.

Next is the Greyjoy kraken. The original's tentacles were kind of wavy and pointed downward. It was a little too messy for me and they were too short for the size of the squid. Here I made the tentacles curl together so they look neater and appear longer as well. 

Last is the Tully trout. The original didn't have a dorsal fin because there wasn't enough room. Back then, I also didn't want to use the melting technique because I felt like it was cheating. I don't mind that so much now so I added in the fin. I didn't make it as big as I would have liked since I didn't want it too look obvious that it extends out of the cylinder of the crayon. Then I drew in lines for the scales and fins. Below I have the new set that I sent out. I haven't heard anything from the guy so I assumed they arrived safely.

Day 346

It's been awhile since the last time I wrote here. It hasn't felt like a month has gone by but I guess it has. It's been even longer since the last time I posted some new crayons. I wrote about Tumblr and Etsy the last time I updated this blog so I'm going to just do new crayons for now and then hopefully some more posts in a few days to make up for lost time.

Back during the early days of my crayon endeavors, I was contacted by a graphic designer. Along with his usual design work, he also does speaking engagements for various events. He was doing one about creativity and came across my work and asked if he could include it in his talk. I said sure. Then he asked if I could carve The Dude and Walter from The Big Lebowski. Even now with so much crayon carving experience under my belt, I would hesitate trying to carve real people. I thought maybe I could do these two characters because they have very distinct features like their hair style and facial hair. I also thought I could include their sunglasses to cover the eyes to avoid having to carve those too. I told him I could give it a try since I wasn't that confident.

It's been years since I last saw The Big Lebowski. In my head, I envisioned Walter having blond hair while The Dude had more brown hair. So I decided Walter would be made with a yellow crayon and The Dude with a tan one. In reality though, they both have similar colored hair. I started with Walter since he seemed the easier of the two. I don't remember the process of making him too well except being pleasantly surprised with how he turned out. His face could be less flat but it's not too bad.

The Dude was a little harder. The main issue was his hair. In order to make space for his hair, I had to shrink the size of his head and face. I realized then his head size wouldn't match Walter's so I tried to keep the face as large as possible. The end result is that the proportions aren't quite right and he doesn't look as much like The Dude as he could have. He's usually pictured in his bathrobe but I liked the Southwest style sweater he also wears. It seemed more visually interesting than a plain bathrobe. Overall, I'm happy with the end result.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 343

Here's a screenshot of me crossing the 10,000 follower mark. It happened while I was sleeping so I didn't get the exact moment. It happened about a week after I started trending. During the first 12 hour period, I got 2000 new followers and during the next 12, I got a similar amount. Then it started to decrease from there. 

Here's a screen shot of my Tumblr email notifications, which came every 12 hours, in reverse order. The amount of followers steadily decreased as I went lower on the list of trending blogs on the Tumblr app. You can see that it suddenly drops from almost 200 to the teens near the top. I think this is when I stopped appearing on the app. 

During this time, I also received this email from Tumblr saying on the was on their Radar. This meant I would appear on the side bar whenever people looked at their Tumblr dashboard. You can see an example below on the right. What pops up there is random though and even after hitting refresh a lot, I never saw myself appear. Maybe Tumblr is encoded so I don't appear for myself. 

So I've trended on Tumblr and hopefully been on their radar. The next and highest step is to be on Tumblr's Spotlight where they recommend blogs to people looking for new things. It's the closest thing to a front page Tumblr has. While I could only see myself trending on the app, the Spotlight is easily accessible on their webpage. We'll see if I ever get on there.

Day 342

A few weeks ago, I woke up in the morning, went on my computer and looked my Tumblr stats like I usually do. I check to see if anything interesting happened over night (usually nothing does). Everything looked normal but then I noticed that it said I had 900 followers. I was pretty sure I had a little less than 700 the previous day. I thought maybe I had 6 and 9 mixed up in my head. Then I refreshed the stats and now it said I had over a thousand followers. I was a little dumbfounded considering I usually get maybe 10 new followers on a good day. So I knew something was up. I thought maybe a big website wrote about me but I couldn't find anything on Google. Or maybe some super popular person on Tumblr was sharing my stuff to their followers. I couldn't figure it out. Then I got this email from Tumblr:

Apparently I was trending. This happened a few days after I uploaded the group photo of my Adventure Time crayons. It was fairly popular and I think had a few thousand notes at that point. I'm still not sure if I was trending because that post was getting popular or if someone on Tumblr noticed me and decided to stamp me with the Trending label and then I actually began trending. Either way, my account was blowing up. Tumblr itself doesn't really have a front page so I couldn't see myself being promoted on their website. However, their mobile app does have a section for trending blogs and tags. So among the prestigious company of the New Yorker, PBS and Baby Animal Tongues, I found myself. I think I was about the fourth one down on the list. As days went on, I would get lower and lower on the list and get less and less attention.

But for the time being I was happy. Twelve hours after I started trending, I got this email update from Tumblr.