Sometimes Ideas Are Born Whole

for the card2

Hey, did you ever have an idea come to you fully formed with very little clue where it came from? An idea that you thought was amazing, but it just showed up uninvited as a very welcome guest?

It happened to me a long time ago in a London hotel room one morning. My eyes popped open for no reason; and I could see a drawing on a white card: the side view of a futuristic vehicle that could ride up the side of vertical walls. It had ridged tires with flights on them at the ends of articulated arms like you’d see on an excavator. All of this, I assumed, made it easier for this vehicle to traverse uneven surfaces like a mountainside cliff or the outside ledges of a building. The vehicle had a name; and it even said so on the bottom of the imaginary card: mog.

The name came from a dream I had when I was 12 or 13 of a green horse named ‘Mog’ that rode me around my neighborhood. Was awesome, but I hadn’t thought of that dream in forever. Still don’t know what my head was doing that night to connect all this together and dream up this vehicle. However, I loved it. I sketched it as best I could (I’m no artist, unfortunately); and there it sat for years.

Flash forward – I bought my son a Christmas present one year of an ‘Air Hogs’ toy with a remote control car that had vaccum action to stick to the walls. Honestly, not a great toy; but it reminded me of that concept. The mog.

So when I finally got serious about my first book, ‘Tearing Down The Statues‘ I of course had all kinds of people riding these things. I made it central to the book because that’s the whole reason you write things, yeah? To bring these things into the world! In fact, there’s a battle scene on the sides of buildings that made me chuckle out loud as I was writing it because it was so much fun. For the big scenes at the end of the book, I added a mad and desperate dash of a small squad of mogs on a suicide mission. I mean, how could I not?

I’ve always wanted to visualize this thing somehow; and recently I had the opportunity in an unexpected way. Mainly because I’m a horrible procrastinator when it comes to writing. Seriously, I love doing it. I love having done it. Yet I chase shiny things in the tiny bit of free time I’m allowed.

Photoshop, Poser, and Zbrush are three pieces of software that go together pretty well if you have patience, a ridiculously restless imagination, and inadequate artistic skills. I took my first shot at a full visualization of the mog; and that’s the image included on this post. Be kind, I’m learning.

I built the cockpit and body of the mog in Zbrush by pulling in a ready made spaceship body from Poser’s content library as an ‘obj’ file. I tweaked the shape a bit, then started adding the legs as subtools based on deformed cubes. Still in Zbrush, I built the wheels by monkeying around with an extruded gear shape. Maybe not exactly what I saw in that flash of inspiration, but close!

That done, I imported (via the ‘Goz’ plugin) the file into Photoshop, combining it with a stock photo of the side of a mirrored building. It looked gray and fake and flat. Not cool.

The machinery texture on the front of the mog was also a stock image, warped in Photoshop to fit the space. I painted the headlight, side lights, and red stripe on a layer by themselves, then added a ‘layer style’ outer glow to make them pop. If I was a better artist, I’d have worked more on that stripe; but we’ll let that pass because I was digging what I was seeing by this point.

Mirrors everywhere, so I knew that had to be sorted out with reflections and shadows. The shadow was just another ‘layer style’ – drop shadows adjusted for their direction and opacity. I made the reflections by copying the mog layers, reversing them on a separate canvas, jacking down their opacity, and bringing them back in upside down. Had to layer mask to clear out the reflection from the lines between mirrors. Again, not Da Vinci; but serviceable.

I built the little guy in Poser based on some face and body morphs of the stock ‘James’ character in the software, moving the camera down to look up at him so it would seem like you’re staring up the side of that building.

I’m curious what you think, although this is all just for the sake of learning new skills and seeing something I believe I brought into the world come to life in a new way.¬†And honestly, looking at this picture now, I wish I could have more fully formed ideas pop up on their own like this one did. It was an amazing experience.

And I’m a little jealous of that dude riding that thing!