Thursday, July 2, 2009

New Brickshelf Design

I have redesigned my Brickshelf layout.

I deleted the old Star Wars EIII Lego set images that have been taking up bandwidth since their release. Then I consolidated all of my old Lego MOCs into a single Archives folder.

The cool thing are the images I created for the "covers". One day I hope to master photo editing but I'm afraid I'm going to need to do some heavy reading or take a class. Still, for only picking it up in the last month, I'd say I've come a good distance.

The "Space" folder is empty but it won't be for long. I was going to start a new MOC tonight but it didn't pan out, however I'm confident I can at least start one tomorrow.

I'm curious to see how prolific I can remain after the cookie challenge. I feel confident about it. Sure, quality is more important than content, but I'm tired of having a half dozen WIPs at any given time with no new additions to my Brickshelf account.

So, my next unofficial challenge is to remain as prolific as I can reasonably be.

If you check it out, let me know what you think of my Brickshelf layout.

Nnenn Cookies Final

Here we have the entire month showcased, including the Torrent and the Boomer. Both of these Mocs pleased me. After I built them I was actually reluctant to end the challenge.

My over-all impressions of the month.

I'm proud of my efforts. It is difficult to impress people these days so it's important to make sure you're doing something like this for yourself and no one else. There are a lot of AFOLs who are only interested in MOCs that push boundaries and inspire them. To convince yourself that it doesn't matter what they think and that it is ok to produce a large quantity of less-than-spectacular MOCs is not an easy thing to do.

I went into this challenge knowing that most of the models would be less than impressive and that someone would say so.

The fact is that not everyone can be nnenn or Sandlin or Stafford...or any of the other great builders who only seem to produce awesome MOCs. Most of us are mediocre at best and will always be so. Some of us can get better, but unless you can build original designs as well as you can use current techniques, you will not ever be more than average.

It would be nice to be one of those awesome builders (it'd be nice to be a rock star or hollywood hunk also) but I'm satisfied with where I am at. The important thing to me is to be able to build the MOCs that I want to see. Sure, I like nnenn's work well enough, and Sandlin was my first inspiration, but they are only reminders that it is possible to build the stuff that I really want to see.

It's the same with anything else too. If you are unhappy with Hollywood, or the current sci-fi selection at the bookstore, maybe it's time to do some probing and see if you can produce the stuff you actually want to see or read (or hear, in the case of music, I make up my own music often when I'm sick of the same old tunes).

This challenge has taken me places in the Lego hobby I never thought I could get to. If this event has inspired you to do anything similiar, I would love to hear about it (and cheer you on!).

Nnenn Cookies, Week Four

I'm not so happy with Week Four. It's the most colorful week, but the builds are more heavily influenced by Nnenn's designs. I wasn't getting a start on the builds until late in the evening and was starting to race the clock, trying to get pics posted before the next day. Fortunately the builds and editing were only taking about 2-3 hours, but the clock still beat me by the end of the week. With so little time to think about the designs and tinker with them I had to go with as much simplicity as possible.

The Rampage is the most complex build of the week. Unfortunately, it's uniqueness is overshadowed by the poor color mix. The two colors actually look nice together, I just did a crap job mixing them on this model.

The Zort is my favorite of the week. Everything about it was fun, colors, name, and shape.

The Devil's Claw was a rehash of the Devil's Wing, but it just seemed perfect for the over-all concept. Someone pointed out that it seems a bit large for a cookie, but it's actually far smaller than it looks. The Talons that it carries are very minimalistic swarm fighters. The stand was the most difficult thing to put together and took the most time.

I thought this would be the end, but stopping at only 28 days just seemed too cheap, even for me.

Nnenn Cookies, Week Three

Two "duds" this week. Snapfire and Blitzwing just don't quite measure up to the jump in quality and uniqueness that the other five models take on.

I also was also gifted with an impromptu theme in the form of the Devil's Raiders. I haven't shared the name anywhere else yet but I hope to eventually flesh out the theme with ground vehicles and maybe some micro scale capital ships. I'm not a huge fan of micro scale, but I've seen awesome examples that I'm willing to give it another shot. I did some years ago and it would be nice to see if I can do it right.

The Starfire is one of my favorites for the entire month. It has a very simple shape and minimal details. It is very easy on the eyes. It has a slightly modified version of Nnenn's standard cockpit, but oddly enough, the Hammer (from Week Two) was actually more heavily modified (though it looks like all the others) to make it fit on top of the body of the ship.

The Hypershot is my only true assymetrical fighter for the month. It was also awarded with the most hits on Brickshelf, almost double of any of the other cookies. The lime engine "glow" was stolen from Dan Jassim's Starhawk.

The Invader received a shockingly lack-luster welcome on Brickshelf but was a huge hit on Flickr. It was the first of my models to be favorited. I also began to take on as many contacts as possible (I finally realized most Flickr builders had hundreds of contacts to my meager dozen or so, sometimes humility just doesn't get you anywhere) so I'm sure that helped. The Invader was supposed to be very losely based on Nnenn's Danielle but my designs kept falling apart (literally, they just wouldn't hold together) so I finally gave up and went with more of his design. I felt a little ashamed of myself, but you can't win them all.

The Devil's Fork...mmmm...did I say that the Starfire was my favorite? I'm not so sure...the smooth balance of the Fork shocked me. I swooshed it around a few times and had to ask myself if I really built it...YES I DID!

Nnenn Cookies, Week Two

Week Two was fun!

One might argue that if I wasn't having "fun" during the first week, why would force myself to continue? Because I did have fun that first week. However, there was also a certain amount of stress in the form of such things as a lack of confidence, fear of failure, fear of ridicule...etc. But in Week Two, I immediately began building stuff that I liked. The only real dud this week is on Day Thirteen with the Torque Fighter.

A lot of people liked Day Eight (Swoop) but I think they were more interested in the colors than the build (although a couple people say nice things about the integration of the engines into the wings). For a while, Swoop had the highest number of hits on Brickshelf, not that it really matters but it's fun to gauge such things (especially when other builders get over night hits passing a thousand, every little tick of the numbers seems momentous).

The Hammer is fun to look at but something seems very off about it. I don't know what it is, but something just keeps making me stare at it every time I go through my images.

The Gravity Gyro seems to be where things really begin to get interesting.

The entire week is just great to look at over-all. By now the MOCs are only taking a few hours to build, shoot and edit.

Speaking of editing. This week I began to learn basic editing skills. I have problems with layers even now, but it was a great relief to finally learn how to take out the garbage in a background. I also make my own backgrounds for the first time (with mixed results). They are complete rip-offs of Nnenn's backgrounds, but you have to start somewhere...

Nnenn Cookies, Week One

I thought Day Two (Double Header) was clever but it wasn't until Day Four (Thumper) that I was actually pleased with a build for the first time in years. Not just glad to have it done, but genuinely happy with the build.

By now the design ideas were coming more quickly and the actual builds were taking less time also. Day Six (Harrower) and Day Seven (Buster) were my first color experiments for the challenge.

I put this image up on Classic-Space Forums (CSF) and received a luke-warm response. In fact, some of the posts seemed to suggest that this challenge was a complete waste of time. I had yet to really define the purpose or "rules" of the challenge, so it was difficult to articulate what I was doing. The over-all message I was getting was that only a (more) skilled builder should do something like this. I dissagreed.

So, Week One was behind me, only a bazillion more MOCs left to build (that's how it felt at the time)!

Nnenn Cookies, Day One

I won't be doing a post for each day of the challenge, but I think it's important to set a couple of them apart from the rest.

Day One was a challenge in it's own right.

What should I build?

Where do I begin?

What colors should I use?

In retrospect, at least a bare minimum of planning would have made the first few days easier on me, but then that would remove one of the aspects of the challenge. Spontaneous designs was one of the things I was going for. Sure, some outside inspiration was going to be a part of the process, but day to day design needed to be unplanned.

So, Day One came with some panic. The stress was compounded by the realization that I only had enough quantity/colors of the key Lego element in the frame for two MOCs. We builders generally only purchase the parts we use the most (or intend to) and I had never really needed that bracket before. I placed my first Bricklink order of the month on Day One (actually I had to spread the order across several stores, as usual).

I also realized very quickly that more orders were needed unless I intended to build only in old grays, black, red, white,blue, and yellow. My color selection had been tragically neglected over the past few years.

All this was going through my head the entire day as I desperately worked out a design that vaguely resembled a starfighter. Finally, I thought I had found some success until I realized I needed to build a stand for it. I had not built a stand for anything in years. Thankfully I had ordered some extra clear Star Wars "lasers" some time ago (likely for building stands with, but I can't prove it). This took almost two hours.

It was also fortunate that I had purchased some white foam boards recently (to take pics of my Hot Wheels collection) otherwise I would have to use a white sheet (I don't see anyone doing that anymore, so I'm really glad I had those boards).

My digital camera and tripod are aging gracefully but are still functional so at the end of the day I was all set.

Day One was a successful disappointment. I finished my first Nnenn Cookie, but I wasn't much impressed with it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Why Nnenn Cookies?

The above pic is from Nnenn's Flickr photostream. The following is the text in full describing his idea of public standard starfighter cockpit frame.

"The obvious attribute of trainhead builds are their extremely limited scope of subject matter: a box on wheels... over and over again. But they continually manage to capture our interest (usually with detail and SNOT) within this format. I love variation on a theme, especially with constraints.

I also found it interesting when Tim Gould mentioned on that trainheads regularly use each other's sub-assemblies in their models; generating a sort-of community consensus about what looks/works best... which seems at odds with the rest of us who often strive to be completely original, all the time.

But the idea of building on your predecessors (forgive the pun) has certain advantages that I don't think encroach upon creativity. And I'd like to give it a go within an imagined theme: starfighters (of course.)

Peter Morris, with his plethora of same-class ships, reoccuring core frame, and detailed instructions, has provided me a good starting point. Here, I've taken his cockpit box and inverted the trailing bracket pieces... producing studs-down underneath. The design is more compact and gives me more style options.

I'm going to build a bunch of boilerplate variations on this for a while and see where it goes... or if it improves. I'll consider anyone else's designs or iterations as well. Wish me luck. "

Nnenn is an enigma in the AFOL community. I don't know his real name (does anyone?), I've seen no pics of him (heck, he might not even be telling us any truth about himself at all, he might as well be a paraplegic transvestite for all we know (not that it should matter, but it sure would be interesting...)). He breaks all the rules and conventions that most AFOLs follow in their designs without blushing (go ahead and prove me wrong about the blushing). He dosen't care much about critiques, he's not even showing off his work for them. He's just doing it because he enjoys the build. If it ever stops being fun, he'll likely find something else to do (which might result in a change of names and the jump to a different forum/community, honestly, some people take their anonimity very seriously).

Anyway, his work caught my attention but it was his prolific output and positive energy that really grabbed me. Since most of my past influences pretty much went into retirement from the brick, I needed a new source of motivation. Someone who's skill could push me into new directions, not just the most recent flavor of the month technique or fad.

Then Nnenn decided to post one Vic Viper type of starfighter a day for one month. He succeeded. Beneath one of the daily pics, he posted these introspective words,

"I post my models simply to share... not necessarily for a critique either of them or, especially, me. Now, I don't mind feedback and welcome everyone's opinions: I read them all. However, please keep in mind the context before speaking: I am trying to imagine, construct, shoot, image, and post an original model everyday. And that within limiting visual parameters. Every. Day.

Try it yourself some time."

You would think after that even he would slow down, but he continued to be one of the most prolific builders even after the Novvember event.

Finally, he shared the above framework standard. Then for several weeks he only did starfighters utilizing that frame. He wasn't trying to push for new heights or open doors to mind-boggling designs, he was just taking it easy.

And there it was. The missing element to achieving some newfound motivation for myself. Just take it easy. A space MOC does not always have to include ubber detail and realistic functions such as opening canopies and descending landing gear. You don't have to work dozens of clever build techniques and ensure your MOC is of a new and refreshing form. Heck, you don't even have to like what you're building so long as you're having a good time doing it. Easily half of my Nnenn Cookies are utter crap in my own opinion, but I had a blast putting them all together.

So, that's how I came to the challenge.

P.S. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to research past Flickr posts/notes/photos?