Friday, 30 September 2011

Nikon FM results

A short while ago I blogged (or, rather, bragged) about the second-hand Nikon FM I picked up. I got the film back from the lab recently and I thought I would show you the best results. Happily the little fellow's light meter seems to be accurate, his workings sound and he turns out decent shots.

It has become rather a tradition of mine to test new cameras on a trip to London's British Museum. This is one of the world's greatest collections of artistic and ethnographic artifacts. We English spent many centuries *cough* collecting these items the rest of the world until cultural looting was deemed a bit rude. Most contentious are the famous Elgin Marbles - the statues which topped the Parthenon in Athens. They are utterly beautiful, culturally invaluable and the subject of constant diplomatic spats between Whitehall and Athens (though the latter's attention is on more important matters at present).

With repatriation becoming more frequent, it remains to be seen how long such collections will continue to be acceptable.

You can see the full set of photos here.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The icy grasp of Cthulhu

I hate quite a few things in life, including carrying things (I'm not very strong) and washing up without gloves (it really dries out my hands). However, near the number one spot is cold. I really really hate the cold. I possess a lizard-like inability to heat my own body up once I get cold. I get lethargic and it actually hurts. This is partly due to being very thin, but also genetic as my father suffers from the same condition. It's actually quite hard for other people to understand just how debilitating it is, which is annoying as I often have to put up with folk throwing open windows and insisting we sit outside.

The point of this ramble is to get to H.P. Lovecraft. He too hated the cold, but in his case it grew into an almost pathological phobia. In his later years he would keep his heating on all-year-round to stave off the chill. This fear is articulated in some of his weird tales including, most famously, At the Mountains of Madness. "MoM" as it is sometimes affectionately known is one of his most popular yarns. This reputation is well-deserved as it is a excellently crafted story which takes readers on a trip into the terrifying reaches of the freezing antarctic wastes and thence back into the history of the Elder Things. These were extraterrestrial creatures who populated the earth before mankind walked the land and are the main-stay of Lovecraft's fictional universe (or mythos).

The tale has inspired many artists and writers since. There are direct radio-drama and comic book adaptions while films like The Thing are more loosely inspired by the Lovecraft's vision. For a while Guillermo del Toro was developing a big-box-office movie adaptation (Tom Cruise was attached to the project at one point) but this faltered and is no more. With the notable exception of the H.P. Lovecraft Society's brilliant silent version of The Call of Cthulhu, I must confess I have never felt any direct adaption of HP's work has ever done justice to the mythos.

I leave you with a wonderful poster my friend Alastair McColl did for MoM. Check out the tale if you have never read it as it's one of H.P.'s best.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Mass linkage

I am a self-confessed image junkie. I spend a lot of my time just looking at things on the internet. I am very careful to save everything I like, and I tend to do this in batches using Firefox Add-ons like Download Them All and Save Images.

Here is a collection of super-delicious stuff I have been harvesting of late.

[Note: a couple of these might be NSFW]

New artwork by Kilian Eng
1950s Teddy Girls
Aaran Horkey
Harem Scare 'Em
Virgil Finlay
Philip Govedare
Interview with Hydro 74
Vintage Hollywood glamazons
Vintage Hollywood glamazons 2
Yasunobu Shidami 
A-bomb destruction 
Maxfield Parish
Dorothy Lathrop
Before and after D-Day in colour
Harry Clarke
Kay Nielsen
Jennie Sharman-Cox
Erwin Olaf
Nick Night
Jean-Michel Nicollet 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor

Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor is a wonderful tumblr profiling artwork showing...well...doing exactly what it says on the tin. It rails against the culture of scantily-clad females in fantasy art and shows amazing interpretations of what the more sensible girl might wear when facing adversity.

I urge you all to a) check it out b) subscribe to it and c) resist the temptation to use or create artwork in which women look like they're about to go sunbathing.

Also, watch the hilarious College Humor video below poking fun at this same topic.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Static Aeons

Static Aeons by Gib Patterson has just won the joint first prize for short film at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in California. Watch it and be amazed and terrified in equal measure.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New work: Jester Games logo

I have just completed the logo for the Swedish games store Spel och Tillbehör AB (translated as Jester Games).

Jens and Jörgen contacted me with a strong idea for their logo. They wanted it to feature a good and an evil jester in the vein of the artwork one might find on a traditional playing card. The job was quite challenging for two reasons; the organic nature of the heads (which we decided should be like porcelain dolls' faces)  was something I don't have a lot of experience in, and small elements like the ruffs and the tube coming from the evil jester's mouth were complex. I achieved the latter two using Cinema 4D, which I am increasingly using in my work. I also used a new Photoshop technique to render the skulls as metallic, which I am looking forward to employing more in the future.

I am really pleased with the way it turned out and I look forward to seeing it used in the store.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

From the archives: Dance magic!

I was rooting around in my Picasa archive the other day and came across these photos from a party I went to a couple of years ago. I recalled the utter thrill of MEETING THE GUY DRESSED AS JARED THE GOBLIN KING (aka David Bowie) from Labyrinth.

O.M.G. awesomes!

Friday, 16 September 2011

In space no one can hear your heels...


There are now 50 of you following me. Thank you so much and I really hope I can continue to entertain you over the months and years to come.

As a gift here's something I have been working on which no one has yet seen.


Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Nikon FM

One of my exciting finds at a recent re-enactment show was a second-hand Nikon analogue SLR. I could not quite believe it when I saw the thing in a basket of old camera bodies with a stallholder who proudly proclaimed they were all half price. Consequently I picked up the FM body and a 50mm 1.8 AI-S lens for about a quarter of what it might usually be sold for.

The FM (fully-manual) was the first in a venerable line of bodies which Nikon began producing in 1977. It wasn’t until the 1980s when automation was introduced so photography was still a rather technical subject requiring specialist knowledge. Consequently the camera market of the 70s was almost exclusively aimed at professionals and enthusiasts. The lucrative “entry-level”, which accounts for much of the market share today, was far less prominent. Because pro-sumers were the target audience cameras were made to last and the FM is a fine example of Nikon’s well-deserved reputation for build quality. Most of the body is machined from metal and the controls are satisfyingly clunky. I have read one review where the author claims to have never seen a broken FM. This is believable as there is little to go wrong. Aside from the light meter (which requires the two small batteries) the thing is entirely manual and the shutter is mechanically controlled.

The FM line has seen two further updates in the form of the FM2 (which added faster shutter and flash sync speeds and was revised again with the badge FM2n) and the FM3a (which allowed a degree of automation and is justly regarded as being the pinnacle of the FM line). I used to own an FM3a but sold it to make the move to digital. I have always regretted this and so it’s nice to have one of the family back in my possession. I am planning to run the first roll of film though it soon and I’ll post the results when I get them back.

Photo from here.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The Grant Museum of Zoology

The other day a spur-of-the-moment decision lead me to pop into the Grant Museum of Zoology in the Bloomsbury area of London. The museum is actually part of my alma mater, University College London and I was keen to have a look as I had last visited the collection over ten years ago. In this period the museum has moved from its old haunt (a rather dingy set of subterranean rooms, as I recall) to a much brighter and more airy premises on Gower Street.

Upon entering I was pleasantly surprised. The collection in at one modern in its presentation while retaining its traditional roots. There are many iPads mounted here-and-there allowing visitors to view information and even leave comments. At the same time the museum has a Victorian air – many of the exhibits are genuine specimens in formaldehyde which feature their original hand-written labels. The main room is wood paneled and all the cases are of polished or painted wood as well. There are a few nice touches which show the museum does not take itself too seriously – looking up, visitors will see monkey skeletons clambering up the architecture as if they have escaped from their cases. All too often collections of this sort can be rather po-faced, so touches like this are refreshing.

The collection is named after Robert Edmund Grant who is best remembered as being Darwin’s tutor. It is unfortunate that the success of his protégé rather eclipses his achievements as he was an eminent and progressive biologist himself. He was an atheist and so was barred from Oxford and Cambridge universities and consequently he was denied access to the Royal College of Surgeons (who only accepted Oxbridge graduates) He campaigned against this injustice for most of his life.

I would highly recommend visiting the collection if you’re in the area. An important footnote is that it’s only open on weekday afternoons, so check before you visit.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

OMFG! Kow Yokoyama does ThreeA

Can you believe it? WOW!!!

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum

I have been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of the highly esteemed Grymm Tooms Travelling Museum. They are a traveling reenactment-cum-theater trio who, in their own words are:

 ...a UK-based historical re-enactment group consisting of Grymm’s World of Wonders, Tooms Medical Marvels and the Grymm-Tooms Picture Company, covering the Victorian era from 1860 – 1900 and the Edwardian period 1901 to 1918.

With them travels their museum of curiosities. This features both real and replica items including such highlights as; slippers for those Chinese women with bound feet, the letters delivered by Jack the Ripper to the London Police, mermaids, fake fossils and duck-billed platypus eggs.

Although I have not managed to attend a show, they do a well-regarded comedy-magic-lantern-act. This, as with all their other work, is rather tongue-in-cheek and fondly pokes fun at the history of science. Should you happen to have the opportunity to see their show or stand, do take the opportunity and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Hoplite Association at Military Odyssey 2011

Over the summer Bank Holiday weekend I joined my phalanx of hoplites to attend the UK's biggest multi-period reenactment show. Military Odyssey was a blast and I have uploaded the best of my photos to my Picasa account.

I was fortunate enough to pick up an old analogue Nikon camera at a sales stall and it came with a lovely 50mm manual lens. One of the advantages of the Nikon system is that, by and large, the lenses are all compatible so you can use very old glass on new bodies. I strapped the thing to my trust D100 and it proved to produce excellent results. The 1.8 aperture allowed me to shoot in low light and get wonderfully narrow depth of field.

I'll blog more about my new Nikon FM body soon, but meanwhile here is a taster of the photos I have uploaded.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

New work: World of Twilight logo

I am proud to be able to show you my logo for the World of Twilight game. WoT is the brainchild of the super-talented Mike Thorp. WoT is unique in the wargames world as it is not derived from Tolkein-esque mythology. Rather than featuring the usual range of fantasy folk like elves and orcs, it portrays several races of Mike's own creation. At present these are the Fubarnii, the Delgon and the Devanu, which  are all quite saurian in appearance.

Mike has already published two rulebooks for the WoT game and more material is in the pipeline. One of the things that attracted me to the project was that the WoT background is not only highly original but also rather intimate. Reading the rulebooks one is struck by the lack of apocalyptic descriptions and the gameplay and scenarios are deliberately small-scale ("protect the caravan" for example). Added to this the reader is instantly struck by the fact the world is a labour of love for Mike. In the introductions to the rulebooks he talks about how long the WoT has been a part of his life, and he is generous in inviting readers to contribute to what is still an evolving IP. I was touched by this, as it is a rare thing in our industry.

Mike is, at present, pretty much a one-man-band. He prodigious talent has allowed him to draft the rules, write the books, sculpt the minis and produce the artwork. There are unmistakable overtones of Brian Froud (and particularly The Dark Crystal) in his illustrations. He was eager to revise what was already a very accomplished text-based logo rather than re-design it completely. We therefore opted to keep the render within the aesthetic realm he had already established. Hence we chose natural textures and tones while, at the same time, gave it a sense of antiquity.

I hope you enjoy the logo and I strongly encourage you to check out the World of Twilight as it is a thoroughly delightful piece of work.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Mikael "Migsula" Silvanto

Amazing conversions and paint jobs from the uber-talented "Migsula". I am stunned not only by his ability to harmonize components, but his colour sensibility as well. For example, check out the palette he uses on his Marine. I love the way the hues are restrained and organic throughout. His work retains a painterly quality even on the hard tech.

More mind bending work is shown on his excellent blog where he also talks eloquently about his inspiration and the concept of =I=munda.