Sunday, May 31, 2009

"The Shadow Out of Time" Wallpaper

The title pretty much says it all- a collage-style wallpaper based on the Miskatonic University expedition to Australia in 1935. Click through for the fullsize version.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fast And Easy Fingerprints

It's a pleasant surprise when you stumble across something and immediately realize how useful it is, despite never having thought of looking for anything like it. Case in point, these incredibly convenient Photoshop fingerprint brushes by ~chain on deviantART. These will make the creation of crime scene reports and police files easier than ever.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Slow, But Sure

Sorry about the lack of substantive updates over the last few days, but I've been busy trying to get everything ready for "The Shadow Out of Time" offering. Both the patches and the lapel pins have arrived and I'm really, really happy with how they came out. This is the first time I've delved into offering pins, but after this experience I'm most assuredly going to be doing it again. I'll post some pictures over the weekend so you can see for yourself how great they look.

Despite the early arrival of the pins and patches I'm still shooting for June 15th as the day everything goes on sale to the general public. I'm anal about getting packages in the mail as fast as possible, so I make absolutely sure I have enough mailers on hand to avoid any delays. Right now those mailers are winding their way across the US and should arrive next week.

In terms of price, individual patches should be around $6 while the pins will be slightly more, probably around $8.

In the meantime, here's a work-in-progress shot of one of the other things I've been fiddling around with:

The Necronomicon: Allender Edition

From artist Paul Allender, a fragment of the Necronomicon .

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cthulhu Fhtagn!

From artist Maija Pietikäinen, yet another variation of the ever popular Cthulhu statue.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shoggoth Amulet

From artist K. M. Jurikova Kotulak, a creepy little Shoggoth Amulet .

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Vampire Hunting Kit

I don't have a very high opinion of most "vampire hunting kits", but I like this one on Flickr.

Click through on the link and you can see a small gallery of shots and a running commentary from the creator about putting it together. I really like the attention to detail, something that many projects of this kind fail at, although the way the bottles are corked tweaks my believability sensor. What's going to keep them from spilling their contents all over the interior of the case while you're running hither and yon after your prey? Other than that minor quibble this is a pretty good example of what to include is a project like this.

I'm perpetually puzzled why anyone putting the effort into creating a "realistic" kit wouldn't obtain a period bible like this one. Vintage copies are readily available on Ebay, and the cheapest ones have already undergone extensive weathering (i.e. damaged, worn, and beat to hell). Traveling bibles from the 1800's are a particular bargain, with versions featuring brass corners and clasps going for less than $10.

The included stake and hammer set looks good and is a far cry from the rather lackadaisical approach that's all too common. The stakes actually have points, something far too many prop creators forget about, and the hammer transcends it's origins as a kitchen tool for cracking shellfish thanks to a coat of stain that matches the stakes. The handle still looks a bit thin for actual use, but it's better than the meat mallets and pall peen hammers I've seen some kits use.

This Week's Crass Commercialism

I have a Miskatonic Antarctic Expedition patch and prop photo set up on Ebay this week. The patch is one of the leftovers from the last run and I probably won't be getting another batch until August at the earliest. As for the photo sets, I'm in a bit of a quandary because the developer I was using to produce them has switched to branded photo paper. Needless to say, having "FUJI FILM" splashed all over the back of the prints is unacceptable, so I'll have to find a new supplier.

I may be offering some additional items later this week depending on how much work I get accomplished.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Making Money

In the process of creating a prop pilot's certificate I've discovered that there's an entire underground devoted to making high-quality fake documents. No, I'm not talking about traditional counterfeiters, but artists that specialize in producing incredibly detailed money and certificates. One of the best I've come across is Jerry D. Mills. Check out his mock Battlestar Galactica colonial bills.

Or these animal based designs for the upcoming "Zoovolution" online game.

He has more examples of faux currency in his gallery, as well as some inspired designs for unit patches and documentation.

I stumbled on Jerry's work while looking for help on recreating the fine engraving used on money and certificates to prevent counterfeiting. My Google-Fu was weak, so it took awhile to even learn that those swooping, repeated patterns are called guilloché. In the past they were scribed on printing plates using a specialized machine under the guidance of a master engraver. These days professional artists working in the high-security paper business generate them with specialized programs and plugins, but their basic look can be reproduced with an off-the-shelf program and a little effort.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Africa, 1936

The two guys boarding the plane? They're racing to stop Nyarlathotep.

This shot of air travel in 1936 is from the Shorpy Photo Archive , a constantly growing collection of vintage photos from the late 19th and early 20th century. Browse around a bit and you're guaranteed to find adventure fodder, from shots of aviators at the controls of vintage aircraft to scientists puzzling over a table filled with trepanned skulls.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cthulhu Guitar

Yes, a Cthulhu guitar is frivolous and cheesy, but I've seen "serious" Mythos props that didn't have half as much workmanship and attention to detail.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More From The Good Doctor. Doctor Jones, That Is.

Here's some paper prop porn for you:

That's just a sample of what you'll find at the Indiana Jones Props website. The "Property of Dr. Jones" section in particular is filled with downloadable documents and great advice on tools and techniques for weathering and distressing.

The Abominable Dr. Fetus

From the mind of Dr. Fetus comes this disturbing growth chamber.

Although it appears to be a creation of the most abominable sort of mad science, this wonderful device is actually part of a display about manatee preservation. One can only imagine the delightful creations the good doctor would come up with if he turned to the dark side.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cthulhu Fhtagn!

A Cthulhu statuette in progress from DarkMask on deviantART.

I don't know why, but I find the spongy, tumorous texture at the back of the head very disturbing. I also believe this is the only blog in existence where the phrase "I find the spongy, tumorous texture at the back of the head very disturbing" will be met by blase nods of agreement.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Unspeakable Vault

The gifted Francois "Goomi" Launet was kind enough to give me a shout out on his Unspeakable Vault of Doom blog. I've been a long-time fan of his masterful depiction of fragments from the Necronomicon , but he may be better known for his hysterically funny Lovecraftian comics.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Miskatonic Australian Expedition Map, Redux

Thanks to the talented Tiffany of Curious Goods for helping make sure the PDF for the Australian expedition map passed muster. Just drop me an email if you need a copy. Here's the release version:

And the colorized version:

For my first attempt at mapmaking I think it came out well, but I suspect I'll be coming back to it in the future to tweak it as my skills improve.

Steampunk Underground Explorer Helmet

I have a love/hate relationship with "steampunk".

I love the idea of retro-futuristic props based on the scientific romances of the Victorian era and the pulps of the early 20th century. The ornate elegance of the genre's mechanisms and devices are a nostalgic rebuttal of the smooth, consciously minimalist tropes of modern design. Done well, the emphasis on craftsmanship using basic metals and materials produces objects that revel in the details of their manufacture and evoke a fusion of art and functionality.

Unfortunately, I hate that most of what gets passed off as "steampunk" these days is hackery of the most embarrassing sort. Rayguns slapped together from candlesticks and lamp parts and mad science devices made from plasma balls glued to crappy old jewelry boxes just make my flesh crawl. I'm a huge proponent of the DIY part of the punk ethos, but there's more to crafting a good prop than grabbing some old brass bits at a yard sale and willy-nilly sticking them together with epoxy putty.

I very rarely post any steampunk props I come across exactly because the vast majority of them are pure crap, but then I come across something like this underground explorer's helmet from Tom Banwell that once again gives me hope.

The world would be a much better place if the craftsmanship and attention to detail embodied in projects like this replaced the "Colonel Crapmartin's Expeditious Aetheric Exciter Blunderbuss" crafted from a 2 x 4 and some plumbing pipe that currently epitomizes "steampunk".

Monday, May 18, 2009

Finished Miskatonic Australian Expedition Map

Here's the finished map from "The Shadow Out of Time". Unfortunately, Blogger seems to place a 1600 pixel limit on a jpg's maximum size, so the original 11 x 17 image is considerably smaller here. I'll see if I can find someplace to host the full-sized pdf.

Update: If you would like the full PDF just drop me an email and I'll post it off.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"The Shadow Out of Time" In Google Maps

This is a rough map I've been using to figure out the presumptive route of the Miskatonic Australian expedition.

View Miskatonic University Australian Expedition of 1935 in a larger map

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cthulhu Maquette

Shaun Gentry is the creator of this meticulously detailed Cthulhu maquette. To get an idea of just how intricate it is, click through on the picture for the full-sized version.

Based on the quality of the sculpting and it's massive size (17") this would have to be one of the most impressive Cthulhu statuettes I've ever seen. The way the subtle paint job highlights the cacophony of textures and the repeating spiral motif really catches the eye. The artist also did a marvelous job of using the pose and body mass to capture the figure's ponderous bulk.

Friday, May 15, 2009

"Shadow Out of Time" Map Progress

Here's what I have so far for the "Shadow Out of Time" map.

Now that the overall shapes and major land features are in it's just a matter of adding details. The fine line work needed to recreate the look of a map printed off an engraved steel plate is tedious beyond belief, but the results so far are encouraging.

Update: Ack! I didn't realize that doing a low res export from Illustrator would cause such a bad case of the jaggies. Rest assured, the final map won't have that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bag Of Cthulhu

I don't play the "Call of Cthulhu" card game, but I desperately want this "Bag of Cthulhu" from Fantasy Flight Games.

"Included in the Bag of Cthulhu, are six large Cthulhu figures (55mm) and 24 small figures (20mm). These miniature statues of Cthulhu are beautifully carved accessories that can be used as extra domain markers and success tokens for your Call of Cthulhu LCG games, or they can be used to ornament any game which incorporates eldritch horror."

Unfortunately, the product was supposed to hit the streets in April. I sent off an email to the nice folks at FFG and Evan Hall, their very nice Direct Sales Manager, replied that the bag should be out in June.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pin Design

Here's the die pattern that will be striking the Miskatonic Australian expedition pins.

The finished pin will have an antiqued brass finish and a butterfly clasp in the back. The only change from the conventional black and white logo is a highlight line along the top of Ayer's Rock. This is the first time I've done a pin so I'm looking forward to seeing both how it looks and how it sells.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Australian Exploration Map

This scan of a vintage exploration map of Australia is a perfect example of the kind of look I want for the "Shadow Out of Time" companion map. I nicked the original from Wikimedia Commons.

Taping each section of the prop map together not only makes it considerably more robust, but allows it to be printed in a standard laser printer and then reassembled. While a large-format inkjet printer can produce maps up to 15" wide the ink isn't waterproof, making any attempts at physical weathering a risky proposition.

Cthulhu Fhtagn!

A kind reader sent me a link to this impressive Cthulhu idol by Adriana Lagatta.

You'll find a full gallery of views at the link.

I really like the details of the sculpt, but for some reason the swollen joints and skeletal features made me think of a Pak Protector from Larry Niven's "Known Space" stories. Click through to Wikipedia to find out why.

Just to be clear, since I know how easy it is to misconstrue things, I think the similarity between the Pak illustration and the idol is an amusing coincidence. I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, but for some reason that specific pose has stuck in my brain for, what, fifteen years?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Miskatonic Australian Expedition Patch Sample

The proof for the Miskatonic Australian Expedition patch arrived today.

The patch run will be done by next week, but the pins will take a bit longer. At this point I'm shooting for June 15 as the day for everything to be ready.

Map For "The Shadow Out Of Time"

One of the things that still frustrates me about the "At the Mountains of Madness" project is that I wasn't able to figure out a way to produce a reasonably priced map of Antarctica. I ran off a few copies of the retouched Bartholomew map for my own use, but at $20 a pop for printing there just wasn't enough demand to justify the cost. I experimented with producing my own map in Illustrator, intending to make it available for printing on an 11 x 17 sheet of paper, but at the time my skills weren't up to the task.

Now I'm facing a similar problem with "The Shadow Out of Time". I've already placed orders for the items based on the expedition's logo, but I'd like to offer a selection of ephemera to go along with them. I've already started working on a few specific items that are mentioned in the story, like the letter and photographs that inspire the expedition and the newspaper clippings describing Peaslee's unfortunate condition. Creating those props is relatively easy thanks to, surprisingly enough, Ebay. The global fraternity of stamp collectors regularly posts detailed pictures of period postmarks and stamps from Australia and gigabytes of old newspaper scans are available on CD for a pittance. Producing those at a reasonable price won't be a problem at all.

Even better, I think I've figured out a way to produce a high quality expedition map without having to charge an arm and a leg for it. One of the ways period expeditions kept their maps intact while on the ground was to cut them up and then reassemble them using cloth tape. That way the wear and tear of constantly folding and unfolding the map would be born by the tougher fabric of the tape and not the delicate paper of the map. I was aware of the technique before, but I didn't think of using it until a discussion of the prop map in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis" on the RPF set off a lightbulb over my head.

While short-run large format printing is prohibitively expensive, small scale color printing is cheap and easy. Dividing a map into smaller panels and then cloth taping them together not only makes large-scale, high quality maps affordable, but it has the additional advantage of being a period accurate practice. And there just happens to be a perfect map to use as a template-

It's possible that this map could be cleaned up and used as-is, but I'm going to try recreating it in vector format so it can be printed at multiple sizes. How long that's going to take is still up in the air.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Necronomicon Art

The Necronomicon. A legendary collection of the most mind-shattering magical secrets known to man, and one of the holy grail props of both horror and Cthulhu mythos fans alike. If you're looking to craft an excerpt from that forbidden tome this collection of Necronomicon Brushes for Photoshop by ~DarkNova666 on DeviantART should be a huge help. Here's a sampling of what it includes:

The full set has about two dozen different occult symbols and should be compatible with any image editing program that can import brush files.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me A Map

If you could use some pointers on creating prop maps I heartily recommend a visit to the Cartographer's Guild. Inside you'll find a thriving community of mapmakers crafting fantasy maps of every kind, from recreations of ancient world maps to detailed deckplans for starships. What I find particularly nice about the forum is that it has material and tutorials for folks using free and open source programs like Gimp and Inkscape in addition to the higher end ($$$) mapmaking and graphics program.

This sample map from the tutorial on creating antique-style maps gives you an idea of the level of quality you'll find. The detailed instructions make it easy for anyone to create fantastic maps without having to spend a big chunk of change.

Friday, May 8, 2009

We Meet Again, Dr. Jones

Despite "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" I still love Indy.

Thanks to "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on the big screen, and to a lesser extent George Pal's "Doc Savage: Man of Bronze" on cable, I discovered the world of the pulps and, eventually, the creations of H. P. Lovecraft. To this day I still think they're all part of the same fictional world, and I imagine both Dr. Jones and Dr. Savage being well acquainted with the materials in the closed stacks at Miskatonic University.

More importantly, at least for this blog's purposes, both the Mythos and the world of Dr. Jones have produced a staggering number of paper props. The grail diary and it's numerous inserts from "The Last Crusade" are probably the most iconic collection of prop documents in film history, and over at Indyquest you'll find downloadable versions of almost every scrap of ephemera that appeared in the Indiana Jones movies. Everything from the ticket Indy used to board the Pan-Am Clipper to the post-war intelligence file on Irina Spalko.

If only Dr. Jones had taken an interest in the rumors of a lost city in the Antarctic...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Beyond the Mountains of Madness" PDF Released

Via Yog Sothoth comes word that Chaosium has released the classic "Beyond the Mountains of Madness" campaign as a downloadable PDF file. It's priced at $41.95, but that's a bargain compared to what print copies regularly go for on Ebay.

Disney Nautilus Blueprints

If you're a fan of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" have I got a weekend project for you. Head on over to the Disney Nautilus Blueprints Files site and take a look at the wonderful technical drawings of Nemo's (and Harper Goff's) creation available for download.

The first thing I thought when I saw them was "These would look awesome hanging on the wall." With an hour or two of effort, some aged paper, an old frame, and some trimmed matte board you'll have an eye-catching piece. Even better, you'll have a bit of "steampunk" decor that doesn't involve slapping together some brass lamp fittings and calling it a work of art!

But you could always glue some unnecessary gears to it if you simply can't resist.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prop Airline Tickets

Need a fake airline ticket for a modern-era "Call of Cthulhu" game? Here's a quick and dirty fake ticket generator.

I have to give the folks at MusicAirport credit for coming up with a clever promotional idea. The ticket maker is a fun little online app for driving traffic and the music ain't half bad.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hellraiser Cube Design

After recently re-watching the first and second "Hellraiser" films I was left shaking my head. Either my tastes have undergone a major revision since the 90's or the movies just haven't aged well. I think it's probably a little of both.

Be that as it may, here's some clip art of an alternate Hellraiser box design from back when I thought Mr. Barker's creation was all kinds of groovy. Click through for the high res version.

As an aside, am I the only one that thinks Clive Barker looks like hell these days? I always suspected that the whole "pursuit of the far edges of sensation" thing with Uncle Frank was more than a little autoboiographical, but I never dreamed it would take such a physical toll.

The Spiral Of Madness

Jason Heath's long, slow slide into the realms of madness is well underway. It won't be long before he's grabbing jars off the shelves of the grocery store just because they have a cool shape.


Ha ha.


Monday, May 4, 2009

From The Myst

The computer game Myst and it's sequels are justifiably famous for their unique design style. The overall aesthetic is a blend of steampunk technical sensibility and pop mysticism with a healthy sprinkling of Pacific islander motifs, all blended together to produce a distinctive look. Some fans have gone beyond passively enjoying the art of the games and produced replicas of in-game items as well as detailed tutorials on how to create your own.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Miskatonic Australian Expedition Logo

After a few minor tweaks based on your feedback I've settled on the final design for the Miskatonic University Australian Expedition logo. Click through for the high res images.

The color version:

The black and white version:

You can find various iterations of the logo's development, along with a running commentary on the symbolism of the various parts, here and here. At this point I'm planning on putting in an order for 100 patches later this week. I don't think there will be as much demand for these as for the Antarctic expedition patches, simply because "At the Mountains of Madness" seems to have more fans than "The Shadow Out of Time", but if there's enough interest I can increase the order size.

Update: The company that does my patches is offering a discount for orders that also include die-struck lapel pins. If that's something you would be interested in please leave a comment or drop me an email. I'm already halfway convinced because the flat-backed pins would be perfect for customizing some vintage lighters I have.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Cthulhoid Creatures

For your weekend viewing pleasure, here's an entire Flickr set of cthulhoid creatures.

This is just a small sampling of the work from "Bugmaker" that you can view at the link above. Browse around and you'll see some very creepy sculpts, as well as progress photos showing creatures being created from nothing more than Sculpey over armature wire.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Inked Mi-Go

This is a sylized depiction of a Mi-go for a scroll I'm working on. It's a little smooth as-is, but I've been moving towards doing weathering effects to the final printed image instead of using Photoshop. The end results of real abrasive aging are, predictably, far more realistic than the computer generated version. Click through for the full-sized version.