Silo tutorials from Itunes on the Iphone

My Silo Minotaur videos are now all available from Itunes and can be downloaded right onto your Iphone or Ipod touch. Just open the Itunes app and search for `Silo`.


Edge loops around a mouth

A friend asked how I created the edge loops around the mouth on my recent Rhino model. Doing written tutorials on a webpage does not compare to actually showing how you do it in a video. I've recorded a silent ten minute video of the process I use to create the correct edge loops around a mouth on a creature like this Rhino.


Stay on top of your game


Sanyo Xacti VPC-2000HD and housing

So I’m preparing to go off for a week of relaxing and diving in equal measures. We are flying off to El Gouna in Egypt next week and I’m planning on diving with Colona divers again. I have been looking into upgrading my camera equipment for some time now and finally this week I made a choice and a purchase. First off, let me just say, I’m no photographer. I tend to use cameras to capture textures and reference shots to be used in my 3D and 2D art projects. I like to think that one day I’d develop some skill in the field but right now I have to shoot 50 pictures to even get close a one decent image. With that in mind you will understand some of my past purchases and why I’ve gone for a very simple video solution.

For stills I currently have two options. I always carry a black Olympus mju850 which is a nice little 8 megapixel, waterproof (to 3 meters) point and shoot family camera. It’s shockproof and scratchproof (yeah right!) and is a great little pocket camera. I also keep and use a Canon EOS 350D and three lenses. I have a Cannon 18-55mm standard lens, A Sigma DG 50mm Macro lens and a Sigma 70-300. With that combination of lenses and my compact I can pretty much get all the stills images I need.

So, I needed some sort of video solution to replace my aging Panasonic NVGS1 which now looks like a caveman gave it to my at Xmas. My primary requirement was a video camera and housing that could shoot reasonably bright footage in 15-20 meters of water without a complicated lighting rig. I have been looking at the equipment other divers have favoured on recent trips and they seem to be either very basic and not at all suitable for the job at hand or overly large, requiring two hands to use which is not ideal.

I have had some good experience with Toshiba products in recent years especially my Tecra M7 laptop but all the reviews of the Toshiba HD cameras seemed to indicate that they were at the lower end of the quality range unless you spend a small fortune. I like Canon equipment because to-date I have not had a bad experience with anything Cannon in including my awesome printer (Cannon i9950). I looked into the Canon DV camera range and came up with the Canon HF10 but when I held it I found the standard vid cam shape was not for me anymore. The pistol grip or `phaser` camera felt a better option for me and I liked the Sanyo VPC-1000 that I had seen . I actual got to see one in action in February this year whilst diving at a place called Shab-El-Erg just off Hurgada in Egypt. My Dive master wanted to show me a video of an Eagle ray swimming with two sharks underneath it that he had seen the previous week. He whipped out his little Sanyo and showed me that video and a few shots of wild dolphins swimming right up to the camera lens and that was it for me...sold!

I spent a few weeks researching and reading reviews about the different housings that you can buy and this is the kit I came up with. I added a flight case from Maplin as I like to have my gear looking like Mission impossible tech and I always at the relevant Lowepro bag to suit whatever new tech I buy.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-2000HD
MPEG Movie / Stills camera
HD1080, 60p MPEG-4 AVC/H. 8Mp still images
10 x optical zoom (equivalent to 38-380mm in 35mm format) for photo
16 x optical zoom (equivalent to 44-710mm in 35mm format) for video
1cm macro. Manual White balance
2.7" widescreen LCD.
Media: SD card (SDHC compatible)
ISO 50-3200.
Li-Ion rechargeable battery

Epoque EHS-1000HD Housing for Sanyo Xacti
Depth rating 45m
67m filter thread, for optional external macro and wide-angle lenses and UWCC filters
Controls for all camera functions.
¼" tripod socket for lighting trays.
Top accessory shoe for video light or flash.
Internal flash is blocked by port but can trigger

I’ll do some heavy duty testing next week and post my results.


Rhino Head Tutorial.

So I finally got some time to get my Rhino sculpt underway. I have managed to put together a little tutorial about how I did the 3D modeling prior to the clay modeling and that can be viewed here

Here a a few of the screen shots that can be seen in the tutorial:


Missing link found proving Darwins theory


Second day of researching for the Rhino bust

I’m coming close to having a good concept sketched out for my Rhino bust. I started with my own 3D model of a pre-historic Rhino shown in an earlier blog post and I’ve been adapting him to suit. 2, horns or one horn. Weird shapes horn of standard black Rhino horn. All still to play for as I’ve not locked down the final concept yet. What I often do at this stage is rough out a low polygon digital model to allow me to mess with the overall shape or form and with this project it will allow me to actually see the different horn solutions without committing to clay.

Having made a few `novice` mistake with my recent King Kong Clay sculpture I am hoping to do a much better job with this creature. Again, I am planning to use a water based clay stoneware clay from Eric Tiranti in the UK and not a polymer clay like sculpey. I used far too much clay on the last project and that was mainly because I didn’t build a decent frame to add the base layer of clay to. This time I have draw out my armature and supporting rods and I intend to make a fairly accurate Rhino head from the wire armature, paper and maybe a bit of tape. My intention is to keep the maximum depth of clay to less than 1 inch on any part of the model. I am aiming to make the model roughly 26-30 inches long and roughly the same height to the tip of the tallest horn. If I make the clay too thick this time I will get serious cracking as the piece dries.


Rhino head Sculpture

I have decided to carry on using clay for a few more projects. I still have about 30Kg of the stuff and I try not to be a wasteful man. I have decided to do a Rhino creature of some type but I have been struggling to find a good set of reference images. I suddenly remembered that I had modeled a pre-historic Rhino some years ago with a ZBrush beta. Having found the image and still liking it I am set on the idea of modeling this but with some modifications. I'm going to start with some pencil sketch this week and I'll post the progress. I very often do a quick 3D model in Silo before start a project like this.


A week with the classics

Coming to the end of a long hard week and I just wanted to share what I’ve been up to this week. This week I’ve been listening to a few varied audio books. I’ve spent lots of hours in the car and I’ve been soaking up some Ernest Hemingway, namely a Movable Feast, a memoir about his years in Paris as part of the American expat circle of writers in the 1920s. I listened to a reading of The Old Man and the Sea last week which made me pick up this memoir and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

I followed that up with Moby Dick which is a huge piece of work and not at all what I expected. I was of the understanding that it was a book about a madman chasing a whale: Well, it is, but it is SO much more. For example, Chapter 32 is entitled Cetology. Now, is the branch of marine mammal science that studies whales, dolphins, and porpoise in the scientific order Cetacea. In Moby Dick Herman Melville describes his belief is that all members of the Whale family are, in fact, Fish. Or more accurately `Spouting Fish`. He goes on to describe a wide variety of the Whales and Dolphin specifically the ones that could be caught by whalers in the mid 19th century and how much oil each species could yield. It was published in 1851 which was 8 years before Darwin let loose with the origin of species but it still shocked me for some reason. As I write I am only 45 chapters into it but I am engrossed. I have a habit of reading a classic novel and then following that up by reading the authors biography. Herman’s biography is now on my book list. He got marooned with Cannibals for three months and didn’t end up on the menu. How cool is that! Strange that I should be so entranced by a book about Whaling when I am in fact a staunch Whale conservationist. I suppose the more you understand about an issue both negative and positive the more you can help to improve the situation. You only have to look at the moving and distrubing film SharkWater by Rob Stewart.

I’ve not had a great deal of time for `real` or `paper` books this week but I’ve squeezed in a look at a couple of art related books. One showing the paintings of Norman Rockwell and the other a brief biography of Dali. I’ve managed to catch a couple of films namely Sexy Beast, The Goonies and Coraline at the Cinema (Amazing film!)

What have I been drawing and modeling? Err...very little actually. I’ve worked on one creature for the Wii title I’m working on and I’ve managed a few scribbles in my Moleskine but that is pretty much it. My Kong sculpt is now fully dry and I’m planning a new clay project which I am hoping will be a Rhino of some type.


A little look at pavement art

Had to post this one as it helped me understand how they actually do this amazing street art. Check out Edgar Mellers 3D Street Art site for more of the same.


Sunday morning pre - `clean the studio` ramble

Sunday morning and a dull grey start here in Cheshire. I’m up and about early today and I have a plan to finally get my studio cleaned up and all the old projects put away or disposed of. As I said in my blog update yesterday I am getting ready for a few weeks away from my studio so it is time to wrap up as much as I can and prepare for the first of my summer adventures.

I’m a little happier with my Kong Sculpt today. I took it off its back board and removed the paper from inside the armature (see photos). In the process I cracked off his ear and split his head open at the top but overall he seems to be intact and not here is free of the back board he is drying art a quicker rate. I will reattach his ear and do some surface details later this week then that is him finished. I suppose I need to look up how I can make him more permanent without having to resort to baking him which I am sure would lead to him cracking into pieces.

I’ve been neglecting my 2D skills this week in favour of my clay modeling. I recently purchased a set of three Moleskine sketchbooks and it is about time I started putting them to use. I will be drawing all summer and now is as good a time as any to start. I have not been doing as many twitsketches over the last two weeks and I need to rectify that as well. I started twitsketch as a place for doodlers to be able to find a daily topic to draw but I find it boring having to find a daily topic myself. I’d like someone to do it for me but hey, that’s life!.
I must put some serious browsing time in and find a forum of doodlers and sketchers that have the same sort of interests as I do. I don’t really want to join an online flower drawing class or a group of teenage Manga enthusiasts. I love the content and subjects chosen over at and that has been my chosen online home for years now. Maybe I should just try to perfect my COW’s (Creatures of the week) or maybe even try a CHOW sometime (Character of the week). Hohum.

Silo Training Material update.

At the back end of last year I recorded a series of training videos using Silo to be given away free on the Nevercenter website. In recent months Nevercenter have been releasing the videos a few at a time starting with my `Box modeling a Minotaur` sessions, then `Basics` and finally `Point by point modeling`. I’ve just resent the point-by-point videos as for some reason my files were corrupted when I uploaded them to the NC server. Hopefully these last remaining training videos will be released by mid May thus completing over 8 hours of free Silo training. I have been considering doing Silo training DVD’s again but nothing has been signed as yet. I am not sure how many copies I could hope to sell in this current market and it is a lot of time to invest in a product that may not give any significant payback. I am still very attracted to the idea of creating subdivision modeling DVD’s to help new users understand all the basic elements of modeling creatures and characters from the ground up. Everyone is getting into high polygon sculpting and re-topologizing these days but I am a firm believer in good underlying polygon structure being the foundation of a great sculpt.

Less writing more doing is needed. Off to the studio with dust buster and cloths. I’m going to be really sad now and photograph before and after shots to prove how messy my workroom actually gets.

Kong Sculpt removed from back board


Managing creative highs and lows over a year

AUDIOBOO 002: Managing creative highs & lows

It's been great running the Weekly modeling sessions and we are coming into our 10th week. I started the sessions in the hope of ramping up a bit of support for Silo (in its current state) and to enthuse the community in some small way. Those of you that know me well will know that I don’t follow a software company blindly and the reason I support Nevercenter is that Silo does everything that I need right now as a modeling solution (plus the guys are great).

I don’t use the Silo sculpting tools much yet as ZBrush is my long-term life partner (even though my bit-on-the-side Mudbox is very powerful now) and I would love to get more involved with UV’ing in Silo but Headus UV is meeting all my requirements right now. As a core polygon modeling solution I can’t find a better program that suits my needs both price and features and speed. The bits that are missing or buggy don’t worry me and I don’t seem to get that many crashes and those I do get are not an issue as I am a frequent saver (a learned habit). I only had one crash in the making of the Minotaur videos for example.

That said, I am coming into a very busy period of the year in terms of travelling and spending time with family and friends.

A typical year for me is like this: Spring and early summer I spend a lot of time working in my studio on personal projects, catching up with old buddies online via skype, msn, forums and more recently Twitter. I do lots of 3D training with small companies both in my studio and out in the field. I also take on lots of commercial stuff, mainly small, fast, well paid commissions where possible. By Summer I am usually reaching breakpoint and need to change my plans to avoid burnout. I spend lots of time outdoors and abroad either taking family time on a beach somewhere or some sort of walking break and supplement this with lots of diving and outdoor/nature related activities.

This summer, starting in 2 weeks, I plan to spend a couple of weeks diving wrecks in the Northern Red Sea. Then a few week back home in July and I am going to devote the month to fitness and family hoping to drop the weight I’ve put back on since Easter!. Then I’m off for a tour round the Mediterranean for a few weeks on a cruise starting Southampton (UK) then visiting Vigo, Lisbon, Seville, Cagliari, Florence, Livorno, Rome, Cannes, Gibraltar then back to the UK. Following that I’ll spend the summer vacation with my family and get ready to charge headlong into September and a very busy time for me from then right through until the following spring. The kids return to college and school, my Wife’s jobs is very busy around that time, my daily business ramps up and I start taking on new commissions and projects that lead me right into Christmas time and into the New Year brining me back to the Spring.

Interestingly I find that if I don’t have the big breaks from 3D/2D and the online life I get severe burn out and find myself getting negative with forums, bitter about my own work and I also get artists block where I sit for hours in front of a screen or my drawing table with no creative impulse at all. I find this happens to lots of my artist friends and it affects people in lots of different ways. We all seem to develop our own coping strategies for it. Mine is downtime and travelling. It works both ways though. If I am away from my Studio/artwork projects for too long I get irritated, moody, I can’t concentrate and I am generally a pain in the ass to be around. I have to be creating to keep this side of my character at bay. Playing computer games doesn’t help as it is not creating, it’s doing. When I’m in this frame of mind getting out and exercising or experiencing nature doesn’t help as it isn’t creating, inspiring maybe, but you don’t create anything. Spending time with friends is essential, but it isn’t creating. You get the picture. It’s one great big balancing act for me and I’ve been trying to perfect it and understand it my whole life it seems.

From summer 2007 until the end of 2008 I did very little art related work and I was working around the UK. I loved it for a while. It was great to be interacting, coaching, developing yad-a-yadaa. I convinced myself that my 3D/artistic time was up and I was finally moving on to a different stage in my life. Bad move! No creativity=moody bastard. Being in my car all day and travelling around I learned a great deal about myself and my own foibles. This on-off love-hate relationship with my creative side was ok. Having read extensively on the subject that year I see that it is pretty much the norm for artists from lots of different cultures, times in history and differing artistic disciplines and actually there was nothing unusual about it at all.

Please feel free to leave your comments. I'd love to hear what other people are thinking/feeling about Silo in its current build (2.xx)


May 2009

Some related links:

Beating Artistic block
Tips from painters about overcoming artistic block
Three ways to beat an artistic slump
Drawing Coach give ideas on beating the creative slump


My first audio Boo recording

Yet again because of someone posting something on twitter I am off playing with new technology instead of working on a new piece of artwork or model. This time, and mainly thanks to Michael Nobbs, I am trying out the Audio Boo micro podcasting service. And without further a do here is my first attempt:

AUDIOBOO 001: KingKong Sculpting progress

Hope you like my brief chitty chat about making Kong and please excuse the fact that it ended abruptly. I will make sure I keep within the time scales from now on which I believe is a maximum of five minutes. That one crapped out after three and a half so I'm not sure what happened there.


Sculpting Kong in real water based clay

For some time now I've been wanting to try out some sculpting with water based clay, something I haven't done in over 20 years. I have used Sculpey, Super Sculpey, Fimo, Plasticene, DAS, Wax, Chavant and the green stuff from the Warhammer world. All of the above are great modeling/sculpting mediums but I have wanted to go back and try good old fashioned clay for ages. Heres the WIP's