Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Vintage Space Art Playing With Portals

I saved the best of the pages from the few vintage kids' books I made into purses, and have long intended to hang these space-themed ones from an old school book in my office:

Trouble was, the pages were double-sided - and I kind of liked both sides.

Plus the pages are a bit yellowed, which makes them seem a bit dingy. So I did the obvious thing and scanned them so I could print copies of all four.

Once I'd scanned them in and spiffed them up in PS, though, I started thinking about replacing the text with something a bit more...inspirational.

Which led me, naturally, to the words of Cave Johnson from Portal 2:

I initially made this one with the full quote, but as you see it's a bit wordy and doesn't quite fit the schoolbook tone:

Funny, though.

For the remaining two prints I decided to balance out the set with quotes from GLaDOS, and oddly enough, they fit with the illustrations rather beautifully:

Let's just pretend there's a portal on the planet's surface, shall we?

I love how the astronaut actually looks kind of sheepish. If he'd been grinning it would have spoiled the whole effect.

These would be hilarious hanging in a space-themed nursery, don't you think? If only to see how many visitors actually read the art. (Has anyone done a Portal-themed nursery yet? And if not, WHY NOT?!) (And before you ask, yes, I have seen the Portal kids' room. And it's awesome.)

Anyway, I'm still learning my way around Photoshop, so I spent an embarrassing amount of time cleaning these up and arranging the text just the way I liked it. I bolded certain words the way textbooks do, found the closest matching font to the original I could, and for the third page I even added a few more stars to fill in the gap left by the reduced amount of text. I like how crisp and clean they look now, and most importantly, they make me laugh.

I haven't printed them yet, but I'll be sure to show you guys pictures once I have them framed!

UPDATE: A lot of you designer types are decrying my font choice. I get that. All I can say is I thought it was the closest match to the original text and fit the schoolbook vibe well - but I'll gladly change it if you have something better to suggest! Maybe I'll even try a fun art deco font to mix things up...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Walk Off The Earth Awesomeness

I'm not much of an online video watcher - I think it's my inherent impatience - but John is, and almost every day he shows me one or two of his new favorites. I like letting him sift through the deluge and just show me the highlights, whether it's the newest cute cat video or some amazing science lecture.

Anyhoo, yesterday he showed me this, and WOWEE you guys gotta see!

Not only is the whole five-people-playing-one-guitar thing amazing to watch, the song is super catchy. I only listened to it twice yesterday, and I've had it stuck in my head all day! (Not necessarily a bad thing.)

And if you like that one, watch this one next. The technique alone will make your jaw drop:


I love how artists are taking advantage of viral videos to market their music now - like OK Go and Pomplamoose. Half the time I start watching just for the visuals, and end up loving the music.

Speaking of which, here's a song I never would have listened to if it weren't for the video, and it's been one of my favorites for months now. It's by a Finnish singer named Lauri Ylönen, but if you like 80s pop you'll probably love it:

The vid's also a bit dark. And confusing. But hey, cute puppet!

I originally saw this on SuperPunch last year, and then spent a while hunting for a place to buy it, since it doesn't appear to be available in the U.S. It's a shame there are more places to download it for free than there are places you can actually purchase it (ie, I haven't found one yet), since I'd gladly pay a few bucks for it. Take my money, iTunes, please.

Hit the Ok Go & Pomplamoose links above to see my favorites of their videos, and then tell me who I'm missing in the comments! Maybe you guys will turn me into a Youtube junkie after all. ;)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Convention Photos From 1980!

Britt sent me a link to a great collection of photos from the 1980 Westercon, and it is fascinating. There's some excellent cosplay in there - stuff I could have believed came from last year's Dragon*Con, if it weren't for the quality of the photos. In fact, it's actually kind of awesome seeing how little conventions have changed. Why, there are plenty of ladies in skimpy outfits...

This Lady of the Lake/mermaid was by far the most photographed, I'm guessing on account of her free-flapping boobages. And the giant live snake she later had wrapped around her.

...guys sporting excessive weaponry:

Anyone else suspect that's Adam Savage in the middle?

And plenty of stunning fan-made creations:

I want her hat.

Check out this fabulous Leia and Yoda:

I thought Yoda was a statue until I found another picture of him walking around. So, yep, there's a person in there!

And probably my favorite:

Not because I'm a big Alien fan, but because this proves fangirls have always rocked the house. I salute you, fellow geek girl!

There are lots and lots more pictures, so click on over to The LA Science Fantasy Society to see them all. (Keep in mind the costume photos are mixed in with the non-costume stuff, so just keep scrolling to see everything.) And thanks again to Britt for the link!

Oh, and speaking of conventions: if you're thinking of visiting Orlando next month, be sure it's on the weekend of the 17th for MegaCon. John and I will probably be there all three days, and I'd love to meet any of you who'll be there!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Desperado Decorating

Since this might get me in trouble, here are a few things you should know:

1. John and I took a photography course together in college.

2. Our maturity level has remained relatively static since then.

3. I never inhaled.

So yesterday I found an old photo from that course that used to hang in our living room - much to the consternation or delight of our friends, depending on their taste - and decided it needed to be reintroduced to our decor.

As luck would have it, I also found one of those sappy printed word frames from Ross tucked away in my stash. I have no idea why I bought it, but I quickly realized this was a match made in heaven.

Assuming heaven is really snarky.

Hey, at least it makes me laugh. ;)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Gettin' My Geeky Groove Back

Hellooooo, beautiful geeklings, geekettes, and fellow geek-meisters!

So my family may have sent me home with a large box of dark chocolate-covered cherries, and I MAY have consumed a few too many. BUT NO MATTER. Because I, my friends, am back. And I've missed you. Well, most of you. You know who you are. [winkwink]

So. How was your break?

Since I can't actually hear you, I'll just go ahead and fill you in on mine.

First, even though my family decided a few years ago to stop doing the gift thing (too much stress, and we're all hard-to-buy-for adults anyway) most of us broke the rules.

From John:

Aww yeeah. Does my man know me, or what? (He also got me some mold-making resin. Woot!!) I'm afraid the stainless steel wallet & Star Trek DVDs I got him pale in comparison.

John and I spent Christmas day at home finishing up a gift for my mom: a framed canvas print of a portrait we took of her during Dragon*Con. I snagged the canvas off Zazzle when they were running a 60% off sale. Since this was a very last minute idea, we didn't have time to order a custom frame - but no matter! We'll just, uh, frame it ourselves? Yeah! Why not?

After searching all over town for a shop that actually stocks frame wood and was open on Christmas Eve, we found a small place an hour away that sold us some discontinued scraps of the ugliest frame wood ever to blight the face of the earth. Seriously, it was hideous. We couldn't paint over it fast enough, so I only have this one comparison shot for you:

That's what we started with on the right, and our completed frame on the left.

And here are some progress shots:

This was after John had built the frame and primed it (he's quick!) and sprayed on a chrome base coat.

Next, I added a metallic gold glaze:

I dabbed it on sparingly and smoothed it out by stippling to give the frame a nice platinum look.

After two coats of the gold glaze, it was time for aging:

Here John's applying a heavy coat of black glaze to the rope detailing, which we then quickly wiped off again:

When that was done, I added gold Rub N' Buff to the peaks of the rope and scrollwork detail, and, voila!

Depending on the light, the frame can look silver or pale gold. Kinda nifty.

Here's the back, in case you're curious how John put it all together:

Which we then tidied up by covering with matte gold craft paper:

The day after Christmas we drove to Williamsburg, where we spent several days with my parents and grandmother. I think Mom loved her portrait - Dad immediately hung it prominently in their stairwell - and Dad spent the week gleefully playing with the new camera and lenses we brought him. We also set them up with my old Mac desktop, which was especially fun since they've been life-long PC users. (We've already had a video chat with them since we've returned home, and the vaguely confused and awed expressions on their faces was ADORABLE.) (Love you, Mom & Dad!)

We drove home New Year's Day, arriving in the wee hours. Yesterday I de-Christmas-fied the house. :( I left the steampunk tree for last, and sighed many dramatic and heartbroken sighs as I packed away all the ornaments.

I wasn't kidding about not taking all those lights off, though, and fortunately John found a solution for me:

He shrink-wrapped our tree, guys.

We'll be storing it this way in the garage, which I'll now be calling Shelob's Lair, for obvious reasons:

This sight is so ridiculous I can't help but laugh every time I see it. But hey, next year we can just cut off the wrap, fluff the branches a bit, and plug it in!

Well, that's a wrap - pun intended - obviously - so I'll leave you with a fun video to watch during your next lunch break. If you're familiar with the music of Jonathan Coulton, you'll love it. If you're not, you'll still love it - but afterward you should definitely go look him up. He makes great fun geeky music, and this mini-musical based on his song Code Monkey is great geeky fun:

Happy new year, everyone! Here's to lots more geeky fun in 2012!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry And Bright

Yesterday was my idea of a perfect Christmas Eve: John and I stayed home all day and played with our cameras. Since I usually only take pictures at night, it was fun to get some shots with actual daylight - and to try out a few new Photoshop filters.

So before they're out of season, a few pretties from our house to yours:

This angel and that owl stay in my office year-round. They're just too pretty to pack away!

This, too.

I played lots of Crosby, Sinatra, and Glenn Miller/big band jazz on our rebuilt vintage radio all day - stuff we usually never listen to, but that just sounds so *right* coming out of that cabinet.

I know very little about photography, but I love it so much I'm trying to learn. The technical aspects make my head spin, but fortunately that's John's strong point. (He gave me a ten minute lesson on F stops the other day. Ask me how much I remember.)

I took all of these photos on a Canon Rebel XT, in case you're curious, and I highly recommend it. John has now purchased two newer and higher grade cameras for me, but I keep coming back to my old XT for its ease of use and picture quality. We also buy all of our cameras and equipment used on Craig's List, and have had nothing but good luck with it.

Today we're spending another quiet day at home with John's mom (dinner at Golden Corral - awww yeeeeahh), and then it's off to Williamsburg to visit my family. That drive used to fill me with dread, but after six weeks in a car for the book tour somehow 13 hours doesn't sound quite so bad.

Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Good On Paper

Maybe it's the crafty immediate gratification of it all, but lately I've been obsessed with papercraft.

And this obsession MUST BE SHARED.

Remember the Star Wars snowflakes that have been everywhere lately? Well, Tesh of Tish Tosh Tesh made a steampunk version:

Great grinding gears! Seriously cool, right?

Plus, in another post she provides handy illustrations and instructions for folding a "snowflake seed", ie the "proper flat hexagonal structure for snowflake cutting." I'm so trying this.

If you don't feel like folding, how about this fun and funky geometric paper wreath?

Love the sparkly retro colors! Watch Meg's quick video tutorial here.

Jessica of How About Orange (which is such a cool blog, btw) made this fabulous woven paper ball garland:

She got the instructions from The Cheese Thief, who has a video tutorial here.

Also, if you check the left sidebar of How About Orange, you'll find links to several amazing paper ornament tutorials. I want to try them all - and not just because she uses my favorite color so much. Honest.

If you're the type who'd rather sit back and just *watch* people make amazing papercraft, then you might check out Between the Folds, an origami documentary John and I watched on Netflix streaming last night. Here's the trailer:

The French artist at the :29 mark has the most *amazing* paper seahorse on his desk - I wish you could see it better here - and the guy folding the white spirals at the :13 and :36 mark was my favorite. Really gorgeous, intricate stuff.

And finally, when it comes to free downloadable projects, Matt Hawkins of Custom Paper Toys is probably my all-time favorite. His gargoyle "Gnarley" has been on my monitor for at least two years now:

I just made a new one, in fact, since the paper was getting old.

Completely unrelated, but I have a cute little bat toy (a gift from John of SuperPunch) on the other side:


And before you ask: they're all stuck down with BlueStik, the removable adhesive putty. When your monitor's only an inch thick, that stuff really comes in handy.

Getting back to the paper, check the right-hand sidebar of Custom Paper Toys for a list of all Matt's free downloads. There are plenty of great ones, but I especially like AstroGnome, Chuckles, and Mr. Robot, which I'm making now and is definitely too complicated for beginners and tired bloggers who are trying to watch Mythbusters at the same time. Just so you know.

TIP: If you're new to papercraft, remember to use cardstock or matte photo paper for the toys, and the special paper glue they sell at craft stores will save you a lot of aggravation.

Ok, guys, your turn: If you've stumbled across any great paper crafts lately, please, share with the class in the comments!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Mini Hot Air Balloon Tutorial

As I mentioned in my steampunk tree post, these hot air balloon ornaments have been our most time-consuming Christmas project. Lots of trial and error, figuring things out as we went along, and, in the case of getting the baskets to hang straight, plenty of "colorful metaphors."

The good news is this isn't a holiday-specific craft: wouldn't they make an awesome mobile? Or hang one in the corner of your office for a little whimsy.

To start, you'll need a plastic ornament. The most realistic shape is a tear drop, but since I couldn't find one in plastic we went with round ones and this funky dealio:

At first I didn't think this shape would work, but after sticking a flag on top (which is actually the bottom) it's now my favorite. The flag is a scrap of raw silk folded over, glued, and decorated with a little gem and some glitter glue.

After your ornament, your next essential element is the basket. After hunting around online, I decided these tiny egg baskets made for dollhouses were just right:

Plus, I found them on ebay for only $7.50 for 10 baskets, with free shipping from Thailand. Not bad! (Here's a link if you want to buy from the same seller I did.)

Next, a little aging with watered down brown craft paint:

And then a heavier coat brushed on and wiped off a bit:

Keep the basket handles on for painting, but then clip them off when you're done.

Odds are your ornament will already be pretty as-is, but for a little extra bling you can swag some chain like so:

To do this, get out your trusty Dremel with snake attachment, insert your teensiest drill bit, and drill little pilot holes. Then tap in tiny nails, swag your chain over the nails, and add a drop of superglue to keep it all in place. (If your chain is larger, you can insert the nails through the links.)

Don't have a Dremel? No worries: many ornaments are thin enough that you can push a simple thumb tack through:

See that cord John's holding? That's a poor girl's flexible ruler: just tie a string around the ornament neck, mark your spot, and slide the string around to keep your distances consistent. Nifty, huh?

It's a great way to keep your circumference lines straight:

For plain ornaments like this one you'll want to paint on some designs, glue on some blingy stuff, dip it in glitter, etc. This was our first attempt, so mine's pretty simple:

I'm also happy to report this was the first project I've ever used glitter glue on, and man, is that stuff awesome. (The gold lines are liquid leaf paint.)

From the beginning I knew I wanted a balloon with a net over it, but drawing a net on a round ball is one of those things that sounds easy until you try it. Everything's going fine, and then, BAM! What do I do with the corners?!

To save you the same aggravation, here's the solution I came up with:

As you can see, I drew my grid work with chalk. Then, when I reached the corners, I carefully erased the two final intersecting grid lines and combined them into one. I added a few more lines on either side off that central branch, curving them slightly, so I ended up with four "stretched" corners.

I realize that sounds confusing, so I advise you to just check my pictures if/when you try this, and try to match them:

When I was happy with my lines, I painted over them with liquid leaf paint:

You could almost skip this step, though, because it turns out a nice thick line of glitter glue covers pretty well:

Plus, look how 3D it looks - like an actual net!

(Full disclosure: the glue deflates as it dries, so it's not nearly so puffy now.)

For the finishing touch I bent a little filigree piece to match the ball's curve, and glued red crystals scrounged from my broken jewelry stash into the middle. (Click any of these photos to enbiggen.)

Oh, and the eyelet on top is just a regular ol' eyelet screwed in and painted gold.

Now for the hard part: hanging your basket.

We discovered the hard way that nothing - but NOTHING - will stick to the sides of these lousy baskets. All our super glues were defeated, and hot glue is hard to jam in there. Eventually I cut a tiny circle of cardstock, glued/taped the strings to the underside of the circle, and then jammed it into the basket with a heavy dollop of white glue on the bottom.

Because the basket weighs nothing, your strings will want to bend and curl and kink. Not to worry: grab a heavy nut or two from your tool box, plop 'em in the basket, cover them with a scrap of black tissue paper, and it should weigh it down sufficiently.

To attach the other ends of the strings to your ornament, you can either glue them (and then cover the ends with a ribbon) or, as we did, tie the strings around your little nails.

Of course, you might be wondering how to tie all your strings perfectly level, so the basket hangs straight.


(Remember those colorful metaphors?)

My only advice is a wing and a prayer and maybe a little booze.

Of course, if you use *chain* you can count links and not worry about weighing the basket down - but then you have to figure out how to attach the chain to your basket. O rings are a bit big for such a tiny basket, but I decided to use them anyway on my latest prototype:

Overall this method is faster and easier, but you'll note I STILL can't get the rotten basket to hang straight. I counted links and everything! Honest! (True story: John's in the other room right now with a pair of pliers trying to "fix" whatever I did wrong here. Harrumph.)

This one started as a plain purple ornament, so I jazzed it up with some copper foil tape (the kind you use in stained glass) and bronze glitter glue:

While I was waiting for the glue to dry, my friend Missy remarked that she was surprised I hadn't used pennies in any of my ornaments yet. A-ha! PENNIES!

The one I used is from some friends who recently went to NYC, and eventually I'd like to fill all eight panels with national landmark pennies. They remind me of the decorative panels painted on carousels, and add a lot of detail. Trouble is, I don't have any more - all my smashed pennies are Disney ones. Heh. So, if you have an area landmark penny with a vertical design you wouldn't mind giving up, feel free to send it to me. You know, for the cause.

And now, my dear crafters, I will wrap up this monster post and wish you the very best of balloon luck. I hope you enjoyed, and as always, feel free to share suggestions for improvement or ask questions in the comments!

[Edit: Several people have asked where I found our plastic ornaments. The green I believe came from K-mart, and the others are from places like Hobby Lobby, dollar stores, and Big Lots. Cheaper stores are always better, since nicer places tend to only carry glass.]