Thursday, 27 September 2012

Making a book using MS Publisher

You know, it occurs to me that in my last post I showed you a facsimile of the 1744 edition of Systema Naturae, but I didn't actually explain where Microsoft Publisher comes into the picture.  Today I'm going to explain in more detail how I used Publisher to make the book's pages.

What you're seeing here is a screenshot of the process.  Each block of text there is a scan of a page from the original book.  You can also use text boxes and type in your own text.

You can see I've got publisher set up to show two pages side by side.  That's because I needed to print double sided.  I wanted to have book pages that are printed on both sides.

Each set of two pages in the sidebar on the screen there represents one printed page, which I then cut in half horizontally.  I arranged the text blocks so the two halves could stack inside each other and folded them down the middle.  Result: nice printed book pages.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

This post was brought to you by Google and MS Publisher

This is a facsimile of the 1744 edition of Carl Linnaeus' Systema Naturae

Title page

I have a huge amount of respect for Linnaeus.  Systema Naturae pioneered biology as we know it today by grouping species of plants and animals based on the features they share.  Although no one knew about DNA at the time, Linnaeus noticed that groups of life-forms share similar traits, and he realised this meant they could be classified on the basis of these shared traits.  Linnaeus was the first person to recognise the fact that humans and apes are part of the same family, thus paving the way for our modern understanding of human evolution.

At the time, this was an extremely controversial idea.  Here's the page in question:  "Antropomorpha", meaning human-like creatures, includes humans, monkeys, apes, sloths, and anteaters.  Later studies would show that sloths and anteaters aren't related to primates, but you can't win 'em all.

Like me, Linnaeus seems to have been fascinated by cryptids.  He included a section on "animalia paradoxa" in the Systema, where he talked about various mythical beasts that had been described to him.  He was interesting in debunking these stories; in the first paragraph he talks about a taxidermied hydra he encountered in Hamburg, made from snakeskins and other animal parts stitched together.  Exposing the hoax made him extremely unpopular with the mayor of Hamburg, who wanted to sell his "hydra" to the highest bidder, and Linnaeus had to leave the city in a hurry.

Linnaeus talks about his encounter with the hydra

I like to think Linnaeus would appreciate me giving his book the Seditiosus treatment.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Happy customer

As I mentioned before, I've just finished my first commission.  Here's a photo of the owner with his new zombified beer cooler:

Friday, 21 September 2012

Machiavelli's "The Prince"

I love books.  I love to read 'em, and I love to make 'em.  I'm not much of a writer, but happily the internet and the large number of texts in the public domain allow me to get on with what I'm good at, which is making bindings for other people's books.  This one is The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.

Front cover of The Prince
 Binding a copy of The Prince was a great opportunity to include one of my all-time favourite design elements, the transi, or partially decayed corpse. (If you aren't familiar with the concept of the transi, do click that link. Go on; I'll wait. Seriously, if you're enjoying this blog you'll want to see the photos on the end of that link.)

Here's a close up of the transi wearing a crown and holding a sword:

The back cover features a skull and acanthus leaves.  Why acanthus leaves?  No special reason, they're just fun to make.

And here's the book's spine:

This is a Coptic binding just like the Ars Goetia binding I showed you back in June, and like the Ars, I used my handy-dandy skull mould to form the skulls on the cover.  The rest of the cover is sculpted freehand.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Finished commission: the zombie hand beer cooler

I've finally finished my beer cooler commission.  It's taken a while to do, due to the fact that each of the many, many coats of epoxy sealant takes forever to dry, but if a thing's worth doing it's worth doing properly.  I know my obligations under the Fair Trading Act, and damned if I'm going to make products that aren't fit for purpose.

Here it is, folks!

Close up of the fingers

The back of the hand

The thumb

Thumb and fingers grasping the beer cooler

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Please note the shiny new Cryptkeeper badge

There it is, over to the right of the screen*.  I'm proud to say I'll be participating in this year's Countdown to Halloween.  This is a blogging project that celebrates all things Halloween by getting a bunch of interesting bloggers together to post about various aspects of Halloween during the month of October.  It's great fun, and I highly recommend you check out the site by clicking on that link or, of course, the badge over in the sidebar there.  The full list of Cryptkeepers will be posted on the Countdown site on October 1.

*If you're viewing this on your mobile you'll need to switch to the web version so you can see the sidebar.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Nøkk specimen

The nøkk is a shapeshifting beastie from Scandinavian mythology that lives in waterways and lures unwary people into the water where he can eat them.  I've posted about this little guy quite a few times now, and I'm happy to say he's finally finished.
Here we see the nøkk in his real form, with reptilian yellow eyes and a big mouth full of sharp teeth.

Here's a close up of label:

At this point my Swedish-speaking readers may be having a good laugh at my expense.  My grasp of Swedish would best be described as "rudimentary", so I used Google Translate for the label.  The label says (or at least it does as far as I know): “Juvenile nøkk from Tiveden forest.  It was caught by a fisherman who found it trying to climb into his boat.”

Friday, 14 September 2012

Quick and dirty specimen jar

This post is all about turning a cheap vase into a specimen jar with the aid of some paper pulp and cold porcelain.

I do love to make specimens, and I'm also a big fan of putting them into jars or test tubes.  The container acts kind of like a frame for the sculpture and keeps it safe from dust, moisture, damage etc.  It also gives the item some context.  Rather than being simply a mummified abomination, it becomes a mummified abomination that someone has collected and popped into a jar for study.  You find yourself wondering who might have collected it, and why.

Let's get on with it, shall we?  I've started off with a vase.  Pretty much any vase will work for this; it needn't even be glass.  I've made a paper pulp lid that fits into the top of the vase, and added a small lip at the edge plus a plate of cold porcelain on top to give some textural interest.  At the moment I'm quite keen on the creamy, translucent surface you can get with cold porcelain when you add a large quantity of mineral oil to the mix (translation: I accidentally put far too much mineral oil in there and decided to use it anyway).

I also moulded my signature into the bottom of the lid.

Next, it gets a paint job and some polyurethane, and a knob made from a wooden bead.

And there you have it, folks.  A nice easy specimen jar.  Next time on Seditiosus I'll show you what I put in the specimen jar.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Fun with paint

Because really, if you're going to do it you might as well have some fun with it.

I paint my sculptures.  It's a habit I picked up while doing a Classics major - sculptures like the Elgin Marbles weren't originally plain white marble; they were painted in bright colours to mimic skin and clothing and they weren't exactly subtle.

Here's a reconstruction of what the Elgin Marbles originally looked like, courtesy of
So far, however, I haven't really focussed on paintwork here at Seditiosus.  It's been all about the sculpting.  But the other day when I blogged about painting a zombie hand I realised I should focus on paint here more often.

One of the things I'd like to do in this post is give a shout out to metallic paint.  Many artists don't like it or flat out refuse to go anywhere near it, for the not unreasonable reason it looks unbelievably tacky if you slap on a coat of it and call it a day.  I love the stuff, and I consider it to be unfairly maligned.  You can't hold the product responsible for operator error.

This photo shows a glaze made with viridian and bronze acrylic.  The metallic paint isn't the focus at all, it's just there to give the green a slight shimmer.

I used the iridescent wash as a base coat, as you can see in this photo:

It does a great job of highlighting the sculpture's surface texture.  It's also visually interesting because of the way it catches the light.  I was going for "visually interesting" here, but not actually "sparkly", so after it dried I toned it down with a coat of raw umber and then added some lime green speckles.

Here's a close up shot of those speckles:

For me, this qualifies as brightly coloured.  I'm not big on using bright colours generally, but I'm aware that it's possible to do some cool things with them and that I should probably expant my repertoir a bit.  I plan to experiment more with colour in the future.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Painting the hand

It's time to paint the hand.  

First up, the fingernails and areas of exposed bone on the fingers get coloured.  These areas are given a base coat of yellow ochre with a white glaze over top.

I've painted the skin using thin layers of raw umber, burnt umber, and ultramarine blue glaze.  This gives the skin a fantastic blue-grey, decaying zombie colour.  I've also rubbed a bit of this glaze into the fingernails so they blend in with the rest of the hand.

I use glazes a lot when painting.  In my case, glaze simply means acrylic paint thinned with water.  You can, and technically should, use actual glaze medium instead of the water, but I don't.  Why?  Because I would have to buy some isopropyl alcohol and mix it up with various other substances and it really is substantially easier just to turn on the kitchen tap.  My projects seldom require a smooth pigment covering anyway. 

Here's the hand from the top.  You can see how it will wrap around the beer cooler.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Alien fur rug

Readers who've seen Attack the Block will probably recognise this one.  I love that movie.  Predictably, I especially love the aliens with their glowing phosphorescent teeth.  My favourite scene is the one where you see what looks like cheesy glowing eyes, and the dude says "I don't think they're eyes...", and then you realise what you're actually looking at.  So cool.  I think a lot of the impact of that scene comes from the fact that it looks so cheesy at first, and you therefore don't expect something scary-awesome to happen.

Anyways, a little while ago I saw this hat based on the aliens from Attack the Block.  And I thought, wow, that's cool.  I would like one of those.  But there's no point in me making a hat, because I never wear them.  I come from Viking stock.  I don't wear coats in the winter, let alone hats.  So I thought, a rug!  One of those jobs with a taxidermied head!  Awseome sauce!

So I made one.  It's exactly the same principle as the more traditional bear skin rug; the only difference is that there are no actual animal parts involved.  Like the movie that inspired it, it's a fun little project that isn't afraid to be a bit cheesy.  

For bonus fun, the teeth really do glow in the dark.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

The hand: progress

I've now finished sculpting my zombie hand.  Last time I posted about it I had finished the basic structure and the detail on the fingers, so from there it was simply a case of building up soft tissue on the hand and wrist.

The guy who commissioned the hand wanted something a bit different from the traditional wrist with severed bones poking out, so instead I've made the wrist into a flap of shredded skin.

Now all it needs is a paint job and a coat of epoxy.