Daily Cartooning, the Character as Calligraphy

November 28, 2016

In the wake of the recent elections, I’ve been busy.   I was shocked by the results, needed to remember the world still has good people in it.  I took a simple idea, asked some friends for advice, and then started an event.   At the very least, it helped me.  I met wonderful people, made new friends, reaffirmed friendships with ones I already knew, and felt a part of community again.     This lovely video made by Roger Tran shows the power of what we can do as a community:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwhUGlTTkOk&feature=share  So many people showed up.  Some brought signs, some flowers, all brought themselves.  We came together and became something bigger.  It gave me new strength

In reflection on this, I want to do more to help others express themselves.  I am not a professional artist but I am a competent student and it occurred to me that sharing my notes might help someone else find a means of expressing themselves that they’ve always desired.   To that end:  My notes-to-self on learning to draw economical characters are attached to this image:


and a ~1min time-lapse video of the exercise is available here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMj109VanCs



Free to good home

September 11, 2015


Know someone who does on paper 2D animation and would like an stand? I have a 1960’s Neilson Hordell that I no longer use. I’ve moved to working digitally.

The composite has 3 axis of movement, X, Y, and orbit plus the top and bottom peg bars can move in Y independent of the composite.

It’s all manual. No electronics, just hand cranks (and the handles are broken off some of those, though easily replaced with a screw, a couple washers, and a bit of tubing) and a manual platten. When I got it, its camera head had also gone missing which is why it sits inside a Bessler copy stand. This isn’t a perfect marriage. The lights on the Bessler (when attached) prevent more than about 10 degrees of rotation of the composite. However, they can be removed and attached to the ceiling to give a full range of motion.

In addition, only the top pegbar has ACME style pegs (ones that I somewhat crudely hand made) though both top and bottom bars have lots of screw down points for pegs and it uses the screw-type pegs. If I knew it was going to a good home, I’d be happy to make some more pegs for it to send it off well. I also have a thin gauge metal ACME and a similar round punch pegbar that I used to use taped to the deck for additional pegs.

The composite weighs about 80lbs, the rest of it is pretty light and it’s pretty easy to disassemble and reassemble.

Here’s a film a made on this stand:



Constructing a Canopy Cruiser

July 23, 2014

squeeb bikemount

Ever wanted a cool canopy cruiser on the playa but you can’t weld or didn’t want to permanently alter or bike?  I designed this little rig to give me a solid front mount point that doesn’t turn with my handlebars.  Used in conjunction with clamps mounted on either side of the book rack on the back of my bike, this gives me a nice solid 3-point mount system that has withstood the tests of the playa for several years running.    You can build it in an hour with a jig saw, a drill, though a chisel, dremmel, or router is also strongly recommended.

The core is made from a couple pieces of 2×4.  The one that sits inside the frame of the bike is the important one.  

Put a piece of wood on the opposite side of your bike and trace the open space with a pencil.  Cut it out with a jig saw, and then use a chisel, dremmel, or router to cup them so it fits snugly into your frame  (This isn’t absolutely necessary but the tighter the fit, the better).  

The front inner piece is much like the inner one but you can be more sloppy/creative here.  I wanted my front to look like the prow of an old sailing ship so I bored a larger hole front to back and bent a piece of conduit to slot into it but you could make the hole top to bottom and skip the bend or use a variety of different materials.

The exterior pieces are 1/8″ plywood, but you could use any rigid material that can take a bit of flex.  Stiff plastics and most metals would also work.   The important part here is to make sure that the pieces overlap the tubes of the frame.   This is what keeps your prow from moving side to side.      Also make sure it clears your handlebars and any cables when you turn the wheel back and forth. 

As noted above, my riser is made from a bent piece of conduit but you could mount just about anything here in a variety of configurations. 

The assembly is held together with carriage bolts and lock washers.   I used cap-nuts on mine because I like to minimize sharp edges.

And that’s basically it.  With a solid mount point on the front that’s not getting on your way, you can get pretty crazy with what the actual canopy looks like!  Here’s the rig I built for my spouse last year.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/obscurestar/9699598756/ (That zepplayan is nearly 10 feet long!)


Cintiq Animation Desk

April 9, 2013
Cintiq Animation Desk by ObscuredStar
Cintiq Animation Desk, a photo by ObscuredStar on Flickr.

A little carpentry and the the Cintiq 15X now rotates for better drawing. ^_^


Cintiq 15x 18SX Pen Repalcements and Compatibility

April 5, 2013

I was recently given an old Cintiq 15x sans pen and cables. I’ll make a separate post on cables shortly. But since it took me a few hours of searching, I thought I’d condense this and post it and hopefully save someone else some time. The 15x and the 18SX can use the same pens per all info I found. I’ll be referring to the 15x as it is the only one I tested.

The Bad News:
*The Cintiq 15X pen and all compatible pens are discontinued.
*The Grapphire and Intuos pens do NOT work with the 15x.

The Good News:
*After a lot of searching. Wacom-asia has a compatibility chart here: http://www.wacom-asia.com/aptky/607/pen.htm
** In case that goes away, the pertinent info is that all PenPartner and UltraPen wacom pens should work. These are pens that begin with the model number UP-###E
** For search purposes, you want: PenPartner, UltraPen, UD Series, PL-300, PL-400, Cintiq 15x, Cintiq 18x

On ebay I wasn’t able to find a ‘Cintiq’ pen for less than $130 + shipping. However, I found a UP-719EA-00A-1 for $25. You can also be clever and note that the completely obsolete Wacom Digitizer and Digitizer II tables use the early UP series pens and those can be had on ebay with pen for less than $20. I saw some listed as little as $1 but didn’t feel like waiting for an auction to get a pen.

** NON-WACOM pens: I have not tried these but I found many people claiming that pens for Tablet PCs would work. The favorite among the people who’d tried them was the Axiotron Modbook pen. However, like the wacom pens, this too is discontinued and while they were in the $10-$25 range 2 years ago, the only ones I saw for sale were closer to $100.

So if you’ve lost your pen, exhale! You’re not completely SOL yet. 🙂

I am mirroring this post on DeviantArt to up the signal.

Coming soon: Cintiq 15x USB to Mini-din wiring schematic and replacement power supplies and a DIY instructable for mounting a Cintiq 15X in an animation desk. 😉


Burning Man Canopy Bike

September 14, 2011

For Burning Man this year, I decided to roam into the land of EL Wire and Arduino and do some animation in the world of programmable hardware. This turned out to be a lot more challenging than I first imagined. While the coding was fairly simple, the hardware I’d chosen had a number of issues including things like lighting all of the EL Wire at once would smoke some of the components on the board.

So I spent a lot of time programming interrupt-driven PWM (Pulse Width Modulation Code) This also allowed me to control the effective brightness of the lines but flickering the various EL Strands on and off very quickly.

As usual, I took no photos of the finished product when I was at Burning Man and… It takes a bit of work to assemble. So I’ll show the prototype here in a couple of pieces.

First, the bike canopy itself The white center stripe is stitched with open overlapping ‘scales’ so that wind coming from the front will pass through them with less resistance and wind coming from behind closes them and works like a sail.

A demo of the PWM software is here:

In this demo, the code is just passing a greyscale fractal image through the 8 channels. Because I spent so much time working around the hardware limitations, I didn’t get to do the animation I was planning. Now that I understand the hardware better, I’m going to try designing a new board that can control more strands and will either not require or will offload the PWM handling so it will be a little while before I come back to the animation.

The actual animation for the EL Array will ultimately be controlled by manipulating symbols in a Flash timeline. These then export the data to a compressed file format which will be stored on an SD card and loaded into the bicycle’s onboard computer. Lots of neat stuff left to do on this project but I’m going to detour from it for a short time to work on another project in order to gain the experience required to finish the hardware redesign for this one.


Name change

July 15, 2011

http://halfcircle.wordpress.com is now https://obscurestar.wordpress.com

After decades of a split personality on the internet, I’m trying to unify my identities under a common name.