Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 332

With my success of mixing crayon wax for No-Face, I decided to go back and add some color to BMO. Shiu Pei bought BMO so I wanted to make it extra special for her. BMO was carved with a normal sized crayon so everything is even smaller than usual. I pretty much just applied a drop of melted wax for each button and then carefully carved the right shape. The drops are just sitting on top of the base crayon and not melted deep into it. I wasn't sure if they would just pop right off when I tried to carve them. Luckily they stuck on. I was very surprised the direction pad turned out ok. 

I finally got around to carving Finn. In the time between adding color to BMO and making Finn, I carved many other crayons but I'll talk about that later. The reason I took awhile to carve Finn was that most of the other characters in Adventure Time are predominately one color. Meanwhile Finn is mainly blue but white is also important. I couldn't use a blue crayon or his face would have been blue too and that would have looked weird. I thought about chopping a white crayon in half, attaching a tube of blue crayon for the body and then the rest of the white on top of that for the head. But that would have been too much work so I just settled with all white. I'm very happy with how he turned out. I actually recorded a video of myself carving him. The reason why I did that is yet another story for another post.

With Finn done, I could take more group shots. I think I'm done with Adventure Time. I haven't seen any new episodes recently though so I might get inspired in the future.

Day 329

I've done a carving for My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke. I had one more character from a Studio Ghibli movie planned which was No-Face from Spirited Away. However to make him work, I had to mix colors. I tried it before with Shiu Pei's owl. It wasn't easy but hopefully I learned from that. It was simple to carve the body out a black crayon. I melted a white crayon using my special tools to apply the mask. I placed a base layer which sometimes melted the black causing black swirls in the white. Luckily, applying more white on top was fine since the black swirls were unlikely to melt again since there were so little of it. With the mask applied, I smoothed it out and then carved in the face and markings. Unfortunately, it was hard to make out those features. So I melted a purple crayon to apply the four markings. The eyes and mouth holes still looked faint though so I smeared some barely melted gray wax into the walls of the holes (not filling it though). It turned out well although after I was done, I brushed everything off and black crayon dust in the brush got stuck on the white mask making it not pure white anymore.  

Here's my trio to represent Studio Ghibli. Below is a picture of the characters if you're unfamiliar with them. I was too lazy to get three pictures and Photoshop them together so it's just someone's drawing that happened to included the three characters together.

Day 328

It's been awhile since I've written here. I knew I've been behind but not this much. Oh well. Onward. One of my first customers on Etsy ordered all my Star Wars crayons which were Boba Fett, Darth Vader, the Storm Trooper and R2D2. I had planned on doing C3PO eventually. I asked her if she wanted a carving of him too. She said no since the crayons were a gift and she wanted them sooner rather than later. She might order more for the holidays though. So I put C3PO on the back burner until now. I originally wanted to make him out of a metallic gold crayon I have. However the crayon was more bronze than brass so I just used this non-metallic dark yellow crayon instead. Overall, I don't think he turned out that well. I guess if you're not a huge fan of Star Wars, he looks ok. However, I spent a few hours staring at photos of him so he looks off to me. Something with his head shape and proportions. I didn't put him on Etsy since I don't like him that much. Here's a group shot below. Boba and C3PO were done using normal size crayons while the middle three were large crayons. That's all I have planned for Star Wars now. I could do an Ewok or Chewbacca but I'm not in a hurry to try. I also thought about making some of the iconic space ships out of white or grey crayons.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Day 327

I have a box of grey crayons so I thought about what things are grey that I could carve. I settled on Totoro pretty quickly. If you ignore what Totoro looks like in the movie, the carving looks pretty good. However it's not perfect. Totoro is a lot more chubby and that doesn't come across here. I would have had to shrunk down the head which I didn't really want to do. The other thing is that his ears are too big. One of them broke and it was a hassle putting it back on. So I didn't want to try to make them any smaller or risk another break.

I also have a bunch of white crayons so with Totoro done, I decided to do another Studio Ghibli inspired crayon. Here are the creepy forest spirits from Princess Mononoke. I found out they're called Kodama. I knew I wanted to do two within one crayon. They have a pretty simple design so I thought it would be easy. However doing two at once erased any easiness. They turned out alright though. I have one more Ghibli character to do which will complete the series. 

Day 326

So with all that attention, now what? Well I've gotten a lot more followers on Tumblr. In my last update, I had 139. Now I have 438. However with all those followers, there hasn't been a big increase in notes. Actually the activity has died down a fair amount. I think the Princess Bubblegum post may be on its last legs finally. It's been getting dead of the night numbers during the daylight hours now. I guess I need to carve a Finn crayon and pander to my audience. Once I do a Finn crayon, I can do some Adventure Time group shots and get easy likes that way.

One sad thing is that someone took the photos from one of the articles and posted it on Tumblr along with a link to the article. This article found my Etsy shop but not my Tumblr so there was nothing tracing back to me. That post on Tumblr now has over 100,000 notes. Sad. Those should be mine. Oh well. A problem with having all these articles about my crayons is that I've lost all control over the images. Any random person can write about it or post it on Facebook or Tumblr with or without source links. I don't mind too much. I think enough of it is getting back to me.

One funny thing is that when I created my Etsy store, I just wrote HQ Tran as my name not really thinking about it. I don't even think my name is on my Tumblr anywhere, except that the URL is So when these people wrote the articles, they used HQ Tran as my name. Some of them put it in quotes because they weren't sure it was a name or not. After noticing this, I changed my Etsy name to my real name so a few of the later articles use that instead.

There have been some other developments on the Etsy side of things. I have gone from 55 followers to 144. On Saturday morning during the rush of articles, someone bought all my Star Wars crayons. Then a few days ago someone ordered a R2D2 crayon. It's weird how R2 gets sold multiple times but not Vader or the Stormtrooper which I think look way cooler. No love for villians I guess. Besides that, not any other sales. I did get two requests though, both Dr Who related. I responded to them with price estimates but I haven't heard back from them yet. It would be pretty easy to make some Tardises though. I'll probably do it anyway since there's so many Dr Who fans out there.

I sent off all my Star Wars crayons yesterday. It's a little sad since I really liked them. I tell myself is that I can always make more. Ideally though, I would keep the originals and make new ones to order. Unfortunately, I don't have time for that. Maybe in the future. I had to make two new R2D2s and I found that having an existing version in my hand speeds up the duplicating process since I can directly compare them. So there's another downside of not having originals.

Anyway, there have also been two other developments but I'll write about them once I see how they turn out.

Day 325

Some interesting things have been going on on the crayon front. Last weekend, I was in the city for a wedding. On Friday night, I was informed via Shiu Pei's friend that the website Geekologie wrote about my crayons. It's not a site I visit, but it seems cool. Then after some searching, I saw that some other sites had written about the crayons as well. Most were geeky blogs or websites that I never heard of. Some wrote new articles while others just copied what others had written.

I kind of want to say that I expected this to happen. I know that geeky stuff like this gets popular so I knew there was potential. I thought about posting this stuff on Reddit before but I'm not a regular visitor to that site so I didn't want to sign up just to do that. But I knew if I made it somewhere with high visibility, something could happen. That's why I posted on the Game of Thrones Tumblr. First I had hoped some fan would want to buy the crayons. That didn't work out but the other goal was to have someone with some clout see it and spread it around. Last time I wrote here I mentioned that the book publisher Tor started following me on Tumblr. Turns out they might have been the one that started this whole thing. While articles began appearing on these other sites on Friday, I showed up on Tor's main website (not Tumblr) on Thursday so they might have been patient zero. 

So here are some more screenshots from websites that I actually have heard of like the Australian Gizmodo and io9. I think it's pretty cool I made it on io9. So I think I ended up appearing on a few dozen sites which is good but not insanely viral or anything. That includes sites that just link to other sites. It made a splash but not enough to keep growing. I blame it on occurring on the weekend.

I'll write a little bit more but this entry is getting long. I'll end it with someone's comment from io9.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Day 321

So here's the finished result. Despite being a fairly simple model that's simply painted, it still looks pretty good.
Things that I don't like so much include the wing holding the fork. The waffles should be more irregular. The crown doesn't quite match up with the drawing. I forgot to make him slouch more. I could have altered his body to show that, but then I would have also had to move all the chain links to match the new shape of the body and I didn't want to have rotate and adjust each link again.

Day 320

As usual, I had to unfold the model flat to get it ready for painting in Mudbox.

Unfolding is also needed to increase the number of polygons which I've done above to help smooth out the model. With that done, I went about posing everything. I tried to emulate the original drawing as much as possible. I couldn't get the wing holding the fork to look quite right though.

Next it was onto painting. I kept things pretty simple. On the above left is the base coat. On the right is the painted layers above the base which include the lines on the legs and beak, stuff on the crown, some shadow and shading on the lock and chain, and some shadow for the waffle depressions.

Above is the result adding in a shine layer. I gave the fork, crown, chain and lock the most shine. The beak and legs also got a little as well. For the glasses, instead of just making a flat layer of shine, I drew in shine lines to more accurately reflect the original drawing. Below is the finished flattened paint map.

Day 319

Despite what it looks like, this is not another case of me simply using Shiu Pei's artwork. My original idea was that I thought it would be cool if I made a model of Shiu Pei's logo for the Waffle Roost so that it could be 3D printed by someone and then given to Justin. The tricky part is that 3D printers print from the bottom up. So if you were printing a standing person, the feet and legs would print fine but when you get to the hands, there's a problem cuz nothing is supporting the hands and the printer can't print in midair. You can get around this by printing him laying on his back. A similar issue is with overhangs. If the model extends outwards and the angle is too great, there won't be enough support beneath and it won't print properly. So you have to keep all this in mind when making the model. Eventually though, I decided that this logo probably wasn't ideal for 3D printing and any attempts I made probably wouldn't work. However since I already put some thought into how I would go about modeling the rooster, I decided to just model it normally. 

As usual, I modeled one half at a time. I started with the head and worked my way down to the body. I pulled out the wings and legs and feet. With that done, I mirrored the half over. He ended up being too wide so I adjusted that. Next I made half the sunglasses and mirrored that as well. I couldn't make half a crown because it didn't have an even number of points so I built it as a whole. I started with a donut shape and then strategically extended upwards.

It took a bit to figure out the best way to make the waffle. Once I figured that out, I copied it multiple times to make the throne. Luckily, the waffle extensions on the edge ended up almost interlocking with each other. The fork and lock were made out of cubes. The chain took awhile to do. Making one link was easy but placing them was a little harder. If you remember, the rotate tool doesn't work correctly on my laptop which was a little inconvenient. Below is my finished work in Maya. I still have to move it over to Mudbox to finish posing it. I posed the arms in Maya since they don't have too many polygons and I wanted to make sure they were the right length.