Ben Hatke character pumpkin stencils 2017

At the end of September I got to fulfill a dream of mine to meet one of my favorite illustrators and storytellers, Ben Hatke.  He was out promoting his latest graphic novel, Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, on a book tour that took him to The King's English bookstore in Salt Lake.

I geek out over process and background and hearing how people come to their professions and creativity and it was a joy to sit back and listen to Ben. It was also a lot of fun when Ben's co-host, Matthew Kirby, brought out some swords so he could practice stage fighting with a few kids in the audience. It brought back all the rehearsals Celeste and I ran through on the lead up to our wedding.

I got to speak with him briefly afterward and asked about those of us creeping up on middle age who still have that spark of needing to create something, tell stories, put a piece of themselves out in the world.  He was kind enough to give me the name of his podcast, The Galaxy of Super Adventure, so I could listen in and get pointers.

As I was leaving the meetup in the crisp fall air it struck me I wanted to give a little back, and like I'd done before for Kazu Kibishi and his Amulet Characters, I wanted to create a series of pumpkin stencils of Ben's characters so he and his other fans could celebrate my favorite holiday with some of our favorite characters.





Little Robot




Thank you, Ben, for sharing your stories with us and our children.

Second Stab

Yes, you see what I did there.

Long Time, New Project

I won't go into why it's been so long.  On to more interesting things.  An artist friend at work was talking about old-school videogame characters that seem to get no love nowadays. She particularly mentioned fan-art in artist alley.

She mentioned Pit from Kid Icarus and I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for that game. It was one of the few games I was totally engrossed in as a kid. I made maps for the dungeons and it was one of the few I actually finished.

I realized I needed to make a Kid Icarus clone. I don't want to run afoul of copyright so I'm making it my own thing, but it will definitely capture the vertical scroller, zelda-esque dungeons, upgradeable equipment that made Kid Icarus a blast.

Only mine will be set in Norse Mythology and you'll play as a kid valkyrie.  Which leads to my first stab at the lead character. She might be Skuld, or I may decide on another name.  She definitely needs more refinement but I'm excited about this.

Yo Dawg I Heard You Like Progress

Been getting the 3D itch again lately.  Made some decent progress on the tutorial model and other than a few quirks I'm still enjoying the sculpting tools Blender has available.

Starting Hair

I finished the face by smoothing out the mouth a bit more, putting more detail in the nostrils, and giving her more a hint of a smile like in the reference images.

I then moved on to tweaking the hair and creasing the edges of it, then adding a smoothing modifier.  next up is sculpting in the creases.

Sculpting In Blender

So I've gotten the character roughed in with basic shapes, and have also completed all her accessories so I've moved to the point in the book where you start sculpting.  This is something completely new as a program like Zbrush was always out of my price range.  I can't tell you how cool it is to finally get to play with it, especially in a free tool like Blender

In the videos it always seemed like a much more natural way to sculpt rather than worrying about polygons, edges and vertices.  It's definitely a new skillset to learn after messing with polygons, but I may be getting the hang of it.

Dabbling Again in 3D

I've been waffling, as I'm wont to do, between game and comic projects.  So I dusted off Softimage XSI 7, a software package I paid more than a little for, and discovered I was having licensing issues.  I emailed Autodesk's support (they bought out Softimage) and they said they would free up a license, but that I should upgrade as they would no longer be supporting my version.

Upgrading my software would cost me around $1,500 (roughly 3 times the amount I paid for my Foundation version), not something I have just lying around.  Of course they wouldn't do something benevolent like make their DRM less draconian for users of older versions. That would encourage piracy. (something the majority of amateur and hobby users do anyway because the software is so prohibitively expensive)  So me, the honest guy who pays for his software, ends up out in the cold.

I dropped XSI right then and there and vowed never to support a 3D company again.  Hello Blender my old friend.  I'd been told the interface was difficult and I tried it briefly before jumping into game-mod versions of Maya and 3DS-Max.  But Blender recently released version 2.5 with a UI overhaul that makes things much more accessible.

The new version mixed with my seething hatred for overpriced commercial packages has proved fruitful so far. I found a couple tutorial sites and ended up buying the book Character Development in Blender 2.5 by Jonathan Williamson, who also runs a decent site Blender Cookie.  I would say I'm at least up to the point now that I was in Maya when I got a working tank model into UT2k4 years ago.  To my surprise Blender has also added a sculpting system like Zbrush that Jonathan goes over in the book.

I'm excited to finish this tutorial model and start playing with rigs for posing and lighting and rendering.  I haven't decided if I'll start heading the low poly direction and mess around with UDK or go high-poly and use them for comics or a Ren'Py project.  I just know I'm enjoying dabbling in 3D once again.

It's amazing what free gets you these days.