Friday, October 07, 2016

Fish on a Stick - Industrial Edition

How to make a Fish   

Way back in 2006 I worked for a signage company that had a lot of very cool toys, big CNC routers, a laser cutter, a vinyl plotter or two and several engraving machines. So much potential for creative work! So much mundane stuff actually produced... 

So I sometimes indulged my creativity with the odd lunchtime project. One of these was Fish on a Stick, which had a laser cut acrylic skeleton, a foam head, various plastic components and felt scales. He was a cartoony fish puppet and was a bit of fun to play with.

Fast forward 10 years. Since 2007 I have been doing youth work, and dabbling in creativity whenever the opportunity arose. In January 2016 I discovered  the Laser Cutting company in the town where I now live. I looked through my old files and found I still had the program for laser cutting the fish. I decided it was time for an update! I cleaned up the Corel file and sent it off to be cut.

 I dusted off my markers and did a sketch of a slightly more aggressive fish, something a bit more hard-edged and industrial.

I was going for a used, worn look, with a bit of a transition between steam and dieselpunk, somewhere in there.

 The laser cut plywood components. The original fish was made in plastics, but I wanted to use materials that were easier to work on at home.

Early assembly, showing the construction of the head.

 The head was shaped with expanding foam, the PVC piping was there to create the spaces for the eye holes. I replaced the PVC with brass plumbing fixtures, complete with glass marbles for eyes and LED's that could be flashed off and on.

Each bulkhead section of the fish's body was hinged to provide a fully articulated body.

 The various fins were created with brass strips and pieces of fabric from an old tent, soaked in superglue.

 The head section in the process of being painted. The foam was sealed with epoxy resin first, and then painted with acrylics,

 I wasn't happy with the bumps in the surface, so they were filled and sanded back, leading to the patchy colouring, which looked pretty cool, but I ended up painting over that and adding a black paint wash and gold rub 'n' buff to create a metal effect.
 The scales were created from aluminium slats from an old Venetian blind, which were cut, drilled, and lightly cooked with a small blow torch before being wired together and attached to the wooden skeleton.

The tail fins and the scales in place.

For display, I made a base which included vintage dials modified in Photoshop to display important readouts for Espieglerie Overflow and Aetheric Potentiality. I also prepared a dial for Bombacity Quotient but didn't use it.

The base became a sort of workhouse and a tiny worker is seen heading home after a long day working. So, is this a fish, or some sort of alternative reality airship? Possibly..

The mouth and flashing eyes can be operated by pulling a lever (a modified corkscrew) in the base.

I also made a pole which the fish sits on that you can walk around with. This lets you interact with people, with the fish in puppet mode. The tail swishes with a flick of the wrist and you can open the mouth and flash the eyes at will.

Check out the video too!

Monday, July 04, 2016

Don't Forget to Floss!

 The dreaded Tyrannosaurus-Rex has very tiny arms, not much good for anything really. But they are just right for flossing. And with wonderful teeth and a warm, welcoming smile to maintain, the T-rex finds that flossing is an important part of his daily routine.

Here are two versions of  my 'Don't Forget to Floss' design, the first one being a layered illustration on card and wood, the second one, an animated toy automaton made of wood. I hope to add a video soon!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Somewhere in the middle is reality

Sometimes, everywhere you look is dark. Everything you touch is hard and sharp. Everything you see is decay and ruin. The storm clouds gather around. Thorns grab at your feet, a cold wind whips about your face.
And there be dragons...

 Of course, there are other days where all is sunshine and butterflies! 

But what do these two states have in common? It is true that some days are better than others. There is a lot of suffering in the world and some people do have terrible lives while others seem to have it all.

But generally, the extremes are the stuff of fairytales (or nightmares), a fantasy.

The truth is, somewhere in the middle, is reality.

Monday, March 14, 2016

from my sketchbook - a Dragon

A dragon from my sketch book. Playing with my Copic markers.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Peg Whale - Craft activity

     A little while ago I was asked to come up with some craft activities for a school holiday program for a bunch of pre-teens. I never tried Pinterest before, but I heard that it was a good place to look for such things. 

And it was! One thing I saw there was a photo of a fish made around a wooden clothing peg that seemed ideal.

 I played around with some scissors, paper, and a wooden peg and came up with a Whale design that was simple enough for the kids to make (with a little help for the younger ones).

I have attached a pdf file of the shapes to cut out.

Print out the file on thin card.

Get out the colouring media of your choice - crayons, water colour, automotive spray paint, whatever... and design up your whale's skin. You can get creative with patterns or just go for a solid colour. My example was just quickly done with crayon, nothing special.

Carefully cut out the two shapes. With me so far?

Find a wooden peg. A fresh new one would be ideal! You could possibly use a plastic peg of this design, but you would need to research alternative adhesives. Better stick with wood if you can!

 Using wood glue (I recommend PVA...) attach the peg to the piece with the lower jaw and the tail fins. Note where the peg lines up with the tail fins.

Fold on the dotted lines to create the lower jaw line of the Whale. I didn't do it on this sample, but you can colour both sides of this piece. Some kids draw teeth and a tongue for added effect. 

 The next part is probably the trickiest bit. Note the pencil lines in the photo. Put a small amount of glue along this line to glue the two halves of the head together. Don't put any glue in the centre area, keep it to the edges.

 Also, place a small amount of glue on the sides of the peg where the head attaches. I suggest you pour an adequate amount of glue onto a plastic plate and then apply what you need exactly where you need it using a thin strip of card. 

Note how the back end of the head fits on the peg and that the front of the head lines up with the lower jaw.

And there it is, a whale, with an opening mouth! I quickly drew some eyes on my whale with a marker, but its much more fun to get some of those googly plastic eyes you get in craft stores and glue them on. See the picture at the top for examples by children at the holiday programme. This is a craft activity that appeals to boys as much as it does to girls, which is a good thing.

Included on the pdf is a tiny Jonah which can be coloured in (on both sides!) and then his arms and legs can be folded into a kneeling in prayer position. He is glued into position on the lower jaw and is revealed when the mouth is opened.

If you don't want to be so biblical, you can replace him with a tiny Pinnochio or a rolled up tongue or a fish or maybe some krill. Let me know how you get on with that!

Here is the pdf!

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Ned Kelly. Australian icon. Innovator. Misunderstood genius.

Ned Kelly. Australian icon. Innovator. Misunderstood genius. More than a bushranger. Not just another bearded hipster on a fixie...

Inventor of the bicycle helmet, by which means he sought to protect the rider from the perils of Magpie Attack! 

People speak of drop bears and sharks and hundreds of other deadly, bitey and sting-y things in Australia, but what brings true terror to Australians every spring is the magpie, swooping from above with murderous intent, especially to those who dare to ride bikes.
Not many people know that Ned Kelly was a keen early cyclist, and instead of cowering indoors in September, he decided to do something about it.

 He invented the bicycle helmet. 

Admittedly his early prototype was very heavy (remember this was before the invention of polystyrene) and lacked a little in peripheral vision, but he had on-going plans to develop his ideas.

Unfortunately where he got in to trouble was with his early method of crowd funding. Approaching financial institutions and the public with guns blazing, and promising not to shoot his backers as a reward, was met with a level of misunderstanding by the police of the day.

When Kelly faced the full weight of the law, the judge redefined 'stretch goals' and his enterprise came to an early end.

Such is life...

Here are some photos of my first real attempt at automata - figurative kinetic sculpture. Ned rides his bike as he is continually swooped by a magpie.  Check out the video too!

Magpie has paper wings and a body made of Kneed-it epoxy putty
Ned is made from pine mostly, with aluminium armour (from old drink cans) and aluminium wire for arms, easy to bend in shape! This photo shows him without his jacket and chest armour.

Terror Australis - Magpies

Anyone who has wandered around Australian suburbia in the springtime knows that danger lurks above. Danger in the form of a magpie. They do not like anyone venturing too close to their nests, and they take particular dislike to cyclists. One year a magpie swooped me and opened up a cut just below my ear, he was smart enough to dive blow my bike helmet. The most nasty magpies actually go for the eyes, and can cause serious damage.

This is a video of a different magpie, not quite as vicious as that one on Farm Street, but the Berserker St magpie still took his nest protecting activities seriously. It's hard enough sharing the roads with drivers who think they own the bitumen without the distraction of a bird intent on your destruction! 

 This preoccupation with magpies has had some positive side effects, an awareness of the  natural world around me and it's seasonal rhythms, and an outpouring of creativity. Here is a woodprint I did during a workshop with local printmaker Michelle kershaw at the Rockhampton Art Gallery. A magpie is an obvious choice for a black and white print, after all!
And I know I've posted this before, but it's appropriate for this post, a handy guide to safe cycling during magpie season. It may at some point be expanded into a picture book.

In my next post I will show you an automaton (figurative kinetic artwork) that was also inspired by magpies. Stay tuned for that!

But worse, far worse than the magpie, is the drop bear. Despite all it's gleeful promotion of deadly Australian wildlife, the Australian Tourism people keep all news of the drop bear suppressed. I'd write more about them except Honzablog is not a place of horror and I don't want to be shut down...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

tropical spin

I was thinking that this week's topic for Illustration Friday was Tropical. So I knew my current painting, which symbolises a tropical cyclone forming off the coast would fit perfectly. After all living in the tropics (as I do) isn't all sitting by the pool with a cold drink.Sometimes it is tracking the direction of tropical cyclones and trying to anticipate what the twisting, swirling ball of fury will do to your plans for the weekend.

But then I see the word this week is actually spin. And I got nothin'...

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Revisiting Starwars

Around about 1999 (yes, that's in a previous millennium), my gorilla puppet Murray used to update his website a whole lot more regularly than I do this blog. With the impending release of Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, he posted this article (with a little bit of photoshoppy sort of help from me inserting Jedi Murray into various scenes). I had to video the original flash movie with my phone to reproduce it it here, sorry for the quality of that, but I felt it needed to be here. Anyway, enjoy what passed as state of the art internets in the 90's!


Everyone is going crazy about all this 'Star Wars' stuff, 
so it's time I had a look at it. 

Use the FORKS, Luke!!! 

Silly Skywalker boy is just a farmboy, him don't unnerstand stuff about eating nice, dats why we gotta keep reminding him about his cutlery (that's 'silverware' for all you Amerikan types..). He gets easily confused. 

But then, I don't know why they go on soooo much about forks in Starwars. 'Use the forks', 'may the forks be with you', the 'dark side of the forks'. Why so much stuff about forks?? Is there some hidden meaning? Has Mr Lucas got a eating disorder? 

Obviously it's handy carrying a fork wiv you, tho you don't need 'em for bananas... and the 'dark side' of the forks? What's all that about? Dirty Forks? Using the pointy end instead of the handle bit? Jabbing your sister in the thigh could be an evil use of the fork... hmmm. 

And has this got anything to do with 'Guy Forks Night'? Johnno says he doesn't think that forks are 'gender specific', but then, that's just the silly thing you'd expect him to come out with...

A very rare and special young lady, this. Not many Republics even HAVE Princesses! 

Hey I get it now! 'May the Fourth' is Princess Leia's birthday, and ObiWan is there to remind Luke he's gotta pick up a present for her! But what do you get a Princess who has everything? A new Empire?? 

hmm... no, still don't make any sense...

This is my friend Jar Jar G'boor. He is now a famous movie star, and it's because of little me! I told him about all the fun I had in Jamaica, and he thought it sounded real good, so he went to see. He like it soooooo much he even started trying to talk like a Jamaican (but not very well..) 

Anyway, sitting on a beach in Jamaica, he met Mr Lucas, who was looking for people for his new movie. Jar Jar got the job! But he had to change his name to 'Binks' or somefing silly like that. 

Mr Lucas said that Jar Jar G'boor was a silly name for a movie star...

What's this picture all about? Does it mean I'm gonna be King Kong when I grow up? I don't think so! That would be 'fatalism' so Johnno says! (but what does HE know?) 

So did the little kid HAVE to grow up to be the dude in the black cape? Or is life stuck on a set of rails and you just gotta hang on for the ride? 

And if so, what's the point? What I think is I have a free choice as to what I do, and there is such a fing as 'God's Will' which I may or may not choose to follow.. I mean, I'm not a puppet, now am I? (well, okay, I'm a puppet, but you're not!). And if you are a puppet, who is pulling your strings???

Saturday, April 18, 2015


I bought a packet of five 4 inch square mini canvas panels with the idea I could dash off a series of little paintings of people interacting with their windows. My last painting project took me months, so I was looking for some instant gratification. And seeing that the Illustration Friday theme for this week was Window, and I was able to get to my painting group for about the second time this year, I thought all the stars were in line.

This little scrap of canvas took me ALL DAY, and there are still bits I want to fix on it! Ah, well, at least I have something on-topic the blog about...

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Resilient. The ability to bounce back. I've been talking to my Strength boys about resilience these last few weeks. Life throws all sorts of stuff at us. We can catch it, duck it, deflect it or let it just bounce off us. You get to choose what you hold on to and what you let go. How we cope with it depends on how resilient we are.
We may wobble but we don't have to fall down.

Monday, November 10, 2014




having catatoniaa syndrome characterized by muscular rigidity and mental stupor:
The schizophrenic remained in a catatonic state.
appearing to be in a daze or stupor; unresponsive:
She had the catatonic expression of an avant-garde model.
a person who suffers from catatonia.