Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine's day

let there be love! 🙂

A witch’s enchanted book

all-books-are-magical

Work in progress! After a three months break I am slowly getting back to working on my picture book; “Pete and the enchanted book.” So… watch this space 🙂

Boy meets witch

Pete meets Willisa the witch for the first time. Work in progress…

Pete and the enchanted book test scene 3.jpg

Haunted by Amelia Dyer’s ghost…

young Amelia Dyer

Young Amelia Dyer

… well, at least that’s what it feels like!  In the past 10 months I’ve learnt a lot of new tricks and techniques about illustrating in 3D.  These have given me a few thoughts about my Amelia Dyer illustrations. Looking at them now, just over a year after completing them, they look a bit amateurish and flat.

So I now have this little nagging voice in my head saying I should redo them all, and start working on the 2nd edition of my horror story. The Amelia Dyer story is my most successful picture book in terms of sales so I feel obliged to improve on the illustrations in the book.   

I’m currently working on my third children’s book so this must be prioritised.  Once I’ve completed that, rather than start on a new original story, I will go back to my Amelia Dyer’s illustrations. Although it feels like the work is never ending, I’m pretty much looking forward to revising and improving the illustrations.

It feels like I can’t escape the ghost of Amelia Dyer.  It’s forever drawing me back; it’s the Amelia Dyer curse!

Amelia Dyer's ghost

Amelia Dyer’s ghost

 

My inspiration has returned !

I’m pleased to say that I’ve finished my little side project and the break has worked wonders. My inspiration has returned and I can’t wait to apply all the new things that I’ve learnt about blender to my new illustrations.

I now understand a lot more about Blender Cycles which I will be using in the future. I’ve also learnt some very handy techniques in texturing which I hope will improve my work greatly. It certainly pays off to take a few weeks out to recharge the old ‘inspirational’ batteries.

Here’s my (almost) finished illustration.

Rosario, Uruguay

Rosario, Uruguay

And here’s a little video, showing the modelling stages of the 3d model.

A change is as good as a rest

Producing my Amelia picture book and going straight into writing and illustrating another book, has totally worn me out. My enthusiasm and energy for a new story has flatlined. So, I’ve decided to take a few months off and do something completely different whilst I wait for the return of inspiration.

 

If you have been following this blog, then you will know that I do all my illustrations in Blender3D. One thing that I’ve found very difficult, is to find the time to learn more about the software. There never seem to be enough time as writing and illustrating seems to pretty much fill up all my spare time! So, I thought, now is the opportune moment to learn more about the areas in Blender that either I struggle with, could improve or know very little about.

 

So I enrolled on an online course called “Creating 3d environments” in Blender. It is already giving me new ideas that I want to incorporate in my latest picture book. Although the course takes you through a tutorial and teaches you how to build up the scenes shown in the trailer, I’ve decided to work on my own project and build my own 3D environment.

My project is to try and recreate the majestic and beautiful old house that you see in the picture below.

Rosario, Uruguay

Me and my brother outside our late grandmother’s house.

I have very fond memories of this house, as it was the house of my late grandmother. The picture was taken in 2012 in Rosario, Uruguay, about a year before it was sold to a property developer.

The building is still there today; now abandoned and badly dilapidated, looking almost haunted and ready to crumble into a pile of dust.  I guess it’s only a matter of time before it’s demolished.

I will post the end result of my 3d illustration here once it’s finished.

Rosario uruguay 2

Some of the house’s artefacts that my brother managed to salvage, now invaluable references when recreating the house in 3D.

Friday group hug!

because hugs are lovely and it’s Friday folks! 🙂

group hug

Character Design; Pete

Pete characterDesign

Designing a grumpy, spoiled little kid called Pete. So this is what the main character in my new picture book will look like. Maybe I make a few minor modifications before I complete the design, but it’s more or less finished now… phew!

Designing a witch!

When I first started thinking about Willisa, the witch in my picture book, I knew I didn’t want her to look like a typical witch. You know; long black hair, green skin, big pointy nose, black clothes, striped witch-tights, pointy witch hat, a cat companion, etc. The only traditional witch paraphernalia that I wanted in Willisa was a flying broom.

But I didn’t have much success in designing a new kind of witch. No matter how much I tried, it just didn’t work. I ended up with a witch that has pretty much the same characteristics as your traditional witch.

I kept the long black unruly witch hair. I didn’t make her skin green but I gave her a pointy witch-nose and a pointy witch hat! She may not have a cat companion, but she does wear an outfit that has cat paws all over it. A subtle (?) reference that she does love her cats maybe?

Designing a witch Willisa

In terms of her personality, I imagine Willisa young and very outgoing, full of energy and with a positive outlook in life. Willisa is not an evil witch, she can be mischievous, as most people with a young mind tend to be, but I did write her as naïve. And it is her naivety and her inabilities to foresee the consequences of her actions that lands poor little Pete in huge trouble and drives the plot of my story.

If you observe children on a monkey bar or playing on a balance bar, you will note that more often than not they’re fearless, blissfully unaware of any danger. Gymnasts have a fierce attitude and look amazingly confident when performing. I wanted to combine these two qualities in Willisa; the child and the professional. So to convey her youthfulness, confidence and child-like energy, I decided that, whenever Willisa appears in my book she will be riding her flying broom posed in a way only a professional gymnast would be able to pose, but with the facial expression of an excited child.

WillisaTheWitch

Willisa the witch!

 

Virtual Reality and Picture Books and then some more thoughts on VR…

THE BOOK OF LIFE

THE BOOK OF LIFE

Ever since I first heard of the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality (VR) headset I’ve been following its development very closely. The idea of VR has been around since 1950s with the arcade-style theatre cabinet Sensorama, or depending on your definition of VR, as far back as 1838.

sensorama2

Image source: mortonheilig.com

Unfortunately, to date, all attempts at commercialising VR have failed. The first affordable VR system was release by Nintendo in 1995. It was called the “Virtual Boy” but the technology requirements for VR, to deliver an exciting and immersive experience, just wasn’t ready. So unsurprisingly it flopped.

Fast forward to 2016 and we’re in the year where several well- established companies (HTC and Valve, Oculus Rift owned by Facebook, Samsung and Sony) are releasing the first affordable VR system for the home. Will VR flop again? Well, only time will tell but if you believe the many thousands of online reviews, 2016 will be the year when VR is finally ready for primetime.

Oculus-Rift

the soon to be released Oculus Rift headset

A discussion that is ubiquitous in its absence is whether VR will affect how we consume books and in particular, picture books. Audio books could be setup like campfire stories. Storyteller VR has a very interesting concept which I really liked.  You could have the author of your favourite book reading the story to you in an appropriate environment. Imagine J.K. Rowling reading from the Philosopher’s stone at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Cool huh? Equally, you could be sat next to say, Oliver Jeffers while he reads you one of his many charming books! Or, you could have a Virtual copy of a book, where you choose the environment you want to read it in (a forest, a desert, on top of a skyscraper in New York, you name it) with soundscapes and sound effects to enhance your reading experience.

I illustrate my books in Blender, a 3D software package, which means I create everything in a 3D space. VR would permit me to put the reader in this space, and with a bit of clever programming, allow them to walk around and explore my imaginary world. But then I wonder whether a static world and its statue-like inhabitants would work as a VR experience.

I have noticed that many authors turn their picture books into simple animations. Have a look at The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers here. This is something I would love to do with my books but having the option to turn it into a VR film would be amazing. The animation could be projected into a virtual cinema, in a traditional movie like experience, where the viewer will look at a huge screen while remaining seated. You could have things coming out of the screen towards you, like 3D cinema but in a much more immersive way. You could, for example, have one of the film’s character sit next to you while you watch the film. Or, as mentioned before, put the viewer in the middle of the action. This would present a whole range of new challenges, the main challenge being: how to keep the viewer’s eye on the action. I guess cues like, light, sound and action would direct the viewer’s attention to the story being told, much like the tricks employed by a theatre play. But this would be more like a movie and not a reading experience.

I do not know how this technology will affect the way in which we read picture books. But I do know that I’m incredibly excited about VR and I hope that this time around, it will be a success. A new medium brings so much opportunity and I’m hoping that one day I will be able to experiment with VR and introduce you to my stories in this virtual environment. Imagine that!

vr-exp-david

David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Dive

I don’t want to get carried away with this notion just yet. My own experience with VR has been extremely limited and the technology is at its infancy.  But on the 30th January I will go and see David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Dive at the Natural History Museum in London. This is a VR – 360° video experience that takes you into deep underwater to explore Australia’s world famous reef system. It’s supposed to make you feel as if you’re being taken on a private guided tour sitting in a submersible beside Attenborough. The Virtual Reality headset used is the Samsung Gear VR. I’ve heard some pretty cool stuff about it, so I will finally find out whether VR lives up to the hype. I’ve looked for online reviews of the event and although reviews have been generally positive, very little mention has been given to the VR experience itself. No word about how immersive or the effectiveness in showing the film in this new medium, which is very odd, considering it’s one of the first VR events organised by NHM. Anyway, on 30th I will get to experience this and I can’t wait.

 

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