Last Christmas I wrote about Unrequited, a Batgirl-themed cut-paper piece I did almost ten years ago. While I’ve always been fond of the concept the main figure quickly cooled off for me so I decided to extensively rework the project, keeping the Bat-Mite figure and the odd utility belt pouch but disposing of everything else.
I finished the new main figure today and as I look at it three things come to mind:
- While the differences are not screamingly obvious I am very glad I re-did the Batgirl figure.
- I’d forgotten how challenging cut-paper work can be.
- It’s been a great warm-up for my upcoming book cover-to-be.
It’s been a while since my last large CPS but I’ve thankfully retained, even refined all the pertinent skills. The next step is to create a new environment then reassemble all the components into a single composition
As I wrote last winter I’ve never been happy with the Batgirl cut-paper sculpt that I put together five or six years ago so it should be no surprise that I am up to my elbows making a new version, based on the original sketch. As I was taking pictures my Beautiful Saxon Princess suggested that I make a video presentation about my technique…and I think it’s a good idea. I’m in the “baby-steps” stage of planning right now, still researching video production and funding options like Patreon but it may be that this is the direction my teaching career will take now that I am no longer in the classroom.
…but for now I will share a snap of the work in progress, which starts with a drawing that I cut up to use for templates when making the individual parts.
I’ve lost count/track of all the reboots in DC Comics during the last couple of years, reboots that have been mildly disappointing in that a character I am following will either disappear or change beyond recognition. Such was the case with the disappearance of the Stephanie Brown version of Batgirl dating from earlier in this decade. Not wanting to see the character completely disappear I decided to create an image of her for my studio – and since I like more light-hearted books like Amanda Conner’s work on Power Girl I came up with the composition pictured below.
The failed romance between Batgirl and Bat-mite depicted in Unrequited is something that would fit in the aforementioned books but as I was comparing the finished art is on the left with the preliminary sketch to the right I realized that this was another case where I liked the sketch much, much more that the finished art.
There is something magic in a sketch – a promise of good things to come, a promise that is not always kept. Fortunately with my cut-paper work a do-over is relatively painless …and Unrequited is definitely headed for a do-over.
I think this time I am just going to scan up and work directly from the Batgirl sketch…
Enjoying a motion picture at age 9 entailed a lot more than just sitting in the theater – as soon as I got home I’d want to “play” the movie and act out scenes as a way of prolonging the excitement. Reading my Legion of Superheroes books has punched some of the same buttons a movie does but at 65 jumping off the deck while clad in Spandex just isn’t going to happen. At this stage of my life maintaining a link with the excitement entails some sort of creative work and this time around it will mean a cut-paper sculpt.
In addition to the actual construction of the figures themselves I use a lot of paper in preparatory work. I carefully draw each figure/component , then make a dozen copies of each drawing. Then I cut each drawing into pieces I will then use as templates in making individual parts…and those parts will then be assembled into major figures. The drawings you see here depict Phantom Girl, Bouncing Boy and Ultra Boy; I may be adding another figure (Shrinking Violet) to the composition later on if the design can accommodate her.
Latest in cut-paper sculpts and a miracle that it is finished at all. I started this almost a year ago but as most of you know this has not been an easy year. Even as I look at it now I can find a half-dozen rookie mistakes but to be honest I don’t give a rat’s (bleep). I’d rather be a couple of thousand miles northwest of here at a small chapel in Soldotna, Alaska waiting for my mom’s funeral.
The World’s Finest team ( Batman/Superman) has been one of my favorites from the Day One of my interest in comics. I was not sure I would like the current Batman V. Superman movie but when the flow of action moved away from the stereotypical “mistaken hero throw-down” to fighting Doomsday I stared to like it.
Batman: “Don’t worry – I’m a friend of your son’s “
Martha: “I know. I could tell – you know, the cape”
As it is with all my cut paper work you really don’t get the depth with regular photography, and with this particular piece you’ll be missing even more. You’ll note that Superman’s eyes are glowy-red, like he’s either just used his heat vision or is warming up to do so soon. When I box-frame this work I am going to melt two little holes in the protective Plexiglas.
…right in Superman’s line of sight….
It’s the closing of the year – and as this particular year has been a most challenging one I am glad that I can close it with this paper sculpt…as in “At least I got this one done!”
…and as for the name. When he first discovered superheroes Jaden couldn’t correctly pronounce “M” or “S” so “Superman” became “NuperDan”. It stuck, and now our favorite Kryptonian exile has been permanently dubbed “NuperDan” in the Deitrick home.
Look for this as part of a larger “World’s Finest” paper sculpt due to be out in February.
The first major heartbreak of my life? May of 1968 when I found out that Diana Rigg was being replaced on The Avengers. I cycled between anger and angst every five minutes until a squirrel ran by the window and my attention was distracted enough to get on with life.
Dame Diana was never completely off my radar though and I have followed her career as I have followed the continuing adventures of her alter-ego through paper-back books and graphic novels. ( We will not be discussing the travesty that tried to pass itself off as an Peel/Steed Avengers movie in 1998). The DVD’s released at about the same time were the main reason I finally broke down and bought a player….but through it all I have wished that there somehow was an episode from the fourth season/series that was never aired – and was discovered and about to be aired for the first time.
“Flashback” came out of that wish. In the same way that I ran home after The Longest Day and spent the afternoon jumping out of a packing crate that stood in for Omaha beach, this work is meant to jump-start viewer imagination and interaction. As you look at the elements and the text I am hoping you’ll mentally write their own episode, something involving Steed’s war-time service with Emma’s derring-do.
This work took a LOT longer than planned – but then I wanted to get it just right and I didn’t have a deadline or an art director goading me along. The photography is not the best but I think it will do until I get a pro in there to do the sculpt some justice.
My original plan was to get this portrait finished and posted during the week following Patrick Macnee’s death, but you know that saying about roads, hell and good intentions. The important thing is I’ve finally finished it – albeit with Lori’s steadying touch. She is so good with faces that the studio rules specify that no likeness leaves the premises without going through her.
(…and on the other hand no building, vehicle or other perspective-intensive subject has to go by me!)
I think it turned out looking pretty good…and when you take into consideration the other >bleep< I am pestered with right now it turned out exceptionally well.
Next step: assembling this into the long-awaited Avengers mixed-media project!
I’m getting used to yet another camera. I was all set to get in step with the rest of the human race and use my I-phone for all my photography (as well as just about everything in life) but for some reason I cannot get the images from my phone to my computer…and before I get deluged with advice bear in mind I have had three very competent gear-heads help me with this issue and it still remains unsolved.
Not a problem. We have extra cameras littering the house. It seems like you can’t buy anything without having a digital camera as part of the deal. Not that I am complaining. When you consider what we paid “back in the day” (be sure to factor in the rate of inflation) I could buy thirteen cameras and still be ahead of the game.
This is an interesting piece – a cut-paper cutaway. It is a major component of the promised John Steed/Emma Peel art that I have been working on over the last not-quite-year. I figure that if there is no deadline to meet and no client to please I am going to take my time and get it exactly right…though the definition of “exactly right” gets a little fuzzy at times.
Sometimes people make art because they want an image of something in particular, which includes portraits of loved ones or fan-art of favorite fictional characters. Sometimes art is used to make social commentary. Sometimes it is made as an experiment, to see how a certain technique works. The Avengers piece is a mix of the first and third reasons above: I think the fourth season of The Avengers ( Diana Rigg’s first season and the last season it was filmed in black-and-white) is one of the best bodies of televised work ever made.
I also love working with cut-paper – it allows me to play in that boundary between two and three dimensions in a way no other medium allows; it also combines the best parts of working in those two mediums as well.
The finished/combined piece will be done by this spring. I have the John Steed component to make and some typography to tighten up. In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I am doing a poster for an Avengers episode that “could have been” with just enough information to get some viewer interaction going.
One of the hardest lessons to teach – and to learn – in the art business is gauging how much time to spend on a project. When working in a representational manner it’s always good to err on the side of more hours but after you reach a certain level of proficiency there are times when “less IS more”. I find that to be the case especially with the human figures: it is possible to overwork a drawing.
That is even more the case for me when drawing in preparation for cut paper sculpture. With CPS the drawings are more than just representations of people or objects – they become tools. The process is not just a matter of depicting someone – they also have to be shown in a manner that helps you make parts.
This Batman figure fell into that trap. I really want to make a WORLD’S FINEST // Batman & Superman cut-paper sculpture. One of the first comics I ever read was a World’s Finest # 142 “The Origin of the Composite Superman” and at this stage of my life/career it seems appropriate for such a piece. Unfortunately for all the work I’ve put into this figure it will not be part of the composition. I spent too much time getting everything precisely mapped out and ended up with a drawing that is a bit too stiff and posed for my intent.
….so it’s (literally) back to the drawing board.