Monday, September 20, 2010

Art tool review: Triad Eva and Evo

Size comparison between the popular articulated Spider-Man and the smaller but still highly articulated Daredevil.

So most of who are using artist mannequins probably aren't using the old wooden type. The most popular seems to be this gigantic Spider-Man that has a million points of articulation. The proportions of it have always bothered me so about a year and a half ago I started looking for an alternative and pre-ordered the Eva and Evo. The release was pushed back month by month until here we are a year a half late and they finally arrived.

The figures are much smaller which I find more convenient than the Spider-Man. They're also super light. I mean it would probably take 6 of them to equal the weight of one Spider-Man. This means they feel easier to break but it also makes them very easy to manipulate and pose.

Quality Control
Now we get to the nitty gritty. Quality control issues abound. The hippos are very loose on the Evo so the legs always fall right back to the center line or if you put it in a wider stance he'll try to slide down to do the splits. His torso is floppy. His shoulders can rotate forwards and backwards but it's so loose that the shoulders are always rolling back when you pick it up. The Eva on the other hand has a super tight spring in the torso so rather than having a range of positions, it snaps to being hunched over or thrusting it's nipples skywards. The Eva's legs pop off really easily. I checked the companies forums though and some people had solutions to the problems. Here's a little diagram I made. Basically you need to build up thin coats of super glue to create friction so that things aren't loose or so that the friction stops the tight torso spring from forcing the doll into positions. I think I actually forgot a couple of arrows here.

So out of the box they're completely useless. They can't take any pose and hold and they're nearly impossible to stand on their own. At first I tried some hobby magnets on the feet to see if that would help any with keeping the feet from sliding but the magnets are too weak. Each of these come with two extra sets of hands and have extra chest plates. The holes were too small on every single on of my hands, making it impossible to get them on so the hole had to be widened with a hobby knife. There were also two errant flaps of plastic on the figures that had to be cut off so that the knee and a forearm could twist.
After adding the superglue though, it was a night and day difference. They're much easier to get into various poses now.
Differences in articulation
So the Eva and Evo do not have articulated fingers and I found that I really didn't care. The hand sculpts are all very nice and give much better information to the artist than the Spider-Man hands. The feet of the Eva and Evo do not articulate at the toes. I actually do miss this as it aids in the ability to stand the figure. Although it's not necessarily realistic, I wish their ankles had a better range of motion as that too makes it easier to stand the figures. It helps a lot when you can get those feet flat. There's no articulation where the neck sprouts from the torso. I don't really miss this either although I don't believe that extra cut line really interferes with the aesthetics.  If I had my choice I'd add that point of articulation but I'm not going to fight over it. As a side note, the necks of these figures played a major factor in me purchasing them. I found that most other action figures/dolls have super long necks so that when clothes are added they're not crowded and hiding the head and making the figure look like it has no neck. I'm not planning on dressing these up so I'd rather not have the extra long neck. 

Also there's no real articulation at the wrist on the Evo even though I believe they're counting that as a point of articulation it's mostly just where you snap the hands in and out. Evo will never be able to bend his wrist for doing a push up.

Spider-man's joints are kind of like gears with catch points. So as I rotate the arm in a windmill fashion I count twenty different positions it snaps to. Above the knee there are three points and below the knee there are 4 points. So there's theoretically a limited number of positions that each articulation point can hold. The benefit of this system is that it's super tight. You could drop the figure on the floor and it will practically still hold the position exactly. The system also makes it where you can very very easily get it to stand in a huge array of positions. No Stand is necessary.This also means it takes a little more strength to pose.

The articulation still doesn't compare to the Spider-Man by a long shot but the proportions are much more realistic and less distracting. When looking for a female mannequin in an action figure/doll it was nearly impossible to find a female figure without an hourglass figure with giant breasts and some silly strings coming out of the head pretending to be hair. I do a lot of fantasy work so I wanted a female figure  that didn't look like it was set in modern day by having breast implants.  Also the wide point of the figure is just a little up half-way up thigh which is more realistic to a real woman because of the fat deposits that occur there.

Like I said, they're very difficult to get standing. I don't own a dremel and it looks like I'd have to order especially strong magnets if I even wanted to try to insert those into the feed. I don't really want to spend any more money on these so that they can stand so I made my own ghetto figure stand using some scrap armature wire.

Future Use
Here's a big selling point for if I ever get rich. These figures are designed to be extremely modular. Both figures have interchangeable breast plates that range in size/musculature and Triad will likely make more.  The "muscular" male chest plate looks pretty bizarre on the figure. Arms,head, legs and feet can all be swapped out as well. There are already a variety of heads available and Triad is working on some more muscular arms. So there's a lot of potential for some interesting things down the road. For instance if I wanted more heroic proportions on my Eva I could switch her legs out for some longer Alpha legs. Also a lot of companies make 1/6 scale accessories so if you want to you can buy swords, guns, etc you can. Can't say I recommend clothing as from the photos I've seen the folds and wrinkles you'll see aren't realistic to what you'd see in real life. While these figures aren't exactly close to real, you'll constantly be aware of the lie and won't copy every detail of what you see. I think clothing could give an artist a false sense of security and cause them to trust those details too much and copy something that gives them away.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Focus on nouns VS gibberish

I'm always trying to figure out why I'm not satisfied with my work and I think I may have found part of the answer.

I think my major problem is I focus on the nouns of my illustrations. As my little stylus flies here and there across the screen I'm always thinking, "this is leather. This is shiny. This is wet and shiny. This is bumpy. This is transparent. This is wrinkly. This is an up plane. This is a down plane. This is a soft edge. This is a hard edge. This is x color and y value.What's my light effect? How's this silhouette? Should this be a lost edge?" That's really great for a foundation and is great for a landscape or still life painter. It's gotten me to a certain point and has been really helpful since lots of publishers briefs run along these lines, "I need a kobold with a  leather cap, rusty sword, baggy pants, sling shot, back pack, bed roll,bow and arrow,dagger, hammer, fork,spoon,girdle, suspenders, gloves, rings, necklace, fake arrow through head, coin purse,  elf shoes,pet parrot and a cherry on top." I don't think solely thinking that way is going to work for an illustrator though.

The top companies need you to have the noun/thingness down BUT much of the time it's more about the verb or emotion. So the focus is more on how the kobold is falling down a hill and less about how he's attired as he tumbles. Or the focus is on how much more painful the fall is because the kobold is carrying so much stuff.

Today I was listening to Netflix while working on a piece and all that was going through my head were the thoughts about the thingness of what I was rendering. This was a particularly bad movie though and it suddenly burst into having nothing but a heavy metal song for probably 4 minutes. Suddenly I was thinking things like, "this should be more RARRR and this should be more POW and this should be more AAAAAHH." It was like the world was turned on it's head and I have to say it was more fun during those 4 minutes. Unfortunately it happened during the finishing touches stage but I hope to remember the experience for next time. Netflix isn't going to inspire me in the right directions right now. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I need to start listening to more music while I work and not my more story driven music like Tom Waits and The Black Keys but more of the hardcore metal I used to listen to in high school.

Other notes
Working digitally means I kept help but be zoomed in on a focus area and notice how digital something dumb in the background looks. Then I can't help but try to work on that background element so that it doesn't look as digital. Next thing I know, everything has been rendered to the same level of finish. If I could just force myself to work traditionally and remember to keep my focal points a workable size then I could have varying levels of finish within a piece.

Oh and because I haven't been posting hardly any art on here. Here's a rush job I did a while back for Kobold Quarterly. Plenty of perspective wackiness going on.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Naked guy

Done from life on my tablet last sketchgroup.

Product review is going to have to wait. Thought I got a shipping notice but it was a notice stating that something was ready to ship and I'd be notified when it shipped. geez. I might write a prequel post that talks about a strange subculture.

Anyways I should be able to show some fun artwork around the end of the month or early next month. I'm excited about all four of them.

Also, I'm getting to illustrate an entire RPG book. That's the October work I mentioned last post. I haven't gotten to illustrate an entire book since I did a PDF for Silven when I was first starting out. I think the knowledge that it was all me helped me to raise the bar last time. I'm hoping I'll be raising the bar this time as well. Pay is pretty good and many of the illustrations are half-pagers rather than quarters so I can allot a larger amount of time to each illo since each one pays more. Really looking forward to it.

After October I think I'm probably going to take on some sequential work. I had previously turned it down because I thought it would hurt the growth of my portfolio and frankly because sequential art is intimidating. Now the idea of regular paying gig overrides any fear.