Rethinking Designs

Arm2This week I’ve been thinking about how to get the arm blades to extend in a way I’m satisfied with.  The original concept worked, but after looking at it again, I want a design that keeps the blade a little closer to the arm when retracted.  There were a few basic concepts for the opening mechanism I was considering, and I eventually went with the one I felt was the best combination of practical and aesthetically pleasing.

Designing the mechanism was a bit of a challenge as you want something that can move enough to make a noticeable difference, but compact enough that you can conceal it in the forearm of the figure, which doesn’t leave you a lot of working room.  I’d like to incorporate a simple lock feature into it somewhere so the blade is moving around loosely, along with a trigger piece so you’re not directly sliding the blade in and out.  I feel like designs like this are at least 20% cooler if your hand doesn’t get in the way of the piece being moved.

This concept acted as a chance to redesign the arm itself.  The arms in the original concept worked, but when I look back at it now, I think maybe they didn’t get the amount of detail they could’ve had.  That’s just the nature of concept work, I guess.  You want to design as much as you can upfront, but you can’t get hung up on making every little piece perfect or you never move forward with the project itself.  So, I gave myself some leeway to redesign things along the way as necessary.  Further redesigns will be coming later, but for now I’ve got work to do on these arms.


End Concept Phase

The concept work is done (for now)!  I’ll be getting these printed and hung on my wall later this week to start a mood board.  Sometimes just little things like that can help keep me on track with a project or get me in the mood to work.  I might have spent a little too much time working on the layouts for these boards, but considering these will be hanging on my wall for the rest of the year, I think it was worth it.

On the final model, I’m hoping to make all the moving parts shown here actually work.  I really want to incorporate the helmet-opening feature, the weapon holsters and arm blades.  I’ve also got a few sketches for how all the joints will fit together that I haven’t published yet.  I’m going to try to do something a little better than the standard ball-and-socket or hinge joints on most figures.  Concept sketches for that stuff will probably show up from time to time.

Moving forward, I plan to get started modeling this week.  I’d like to try to stay on a regular schedule with the updates.  I think I’ll be setting up a calendar this week as well to keep my progress on track.  We’re just getting to the heart of this thing!


Finalizing a concept


I’ve been spending the last month doing the concept work for this project, and it’s almost finished.  I’m just finalizing the rest of it, but in the mean time, I wanted to post the main concept.  The rest should be coming later this week.

Looking back at my earlier concepts, I do feel this is the one I’m most satisfied with (as one would hope).  I incorporated several aspects from earlier designs that I felt were working while trying to refine everything else.  In the beginning, I was trying to start from scratch too much.  I quickly realized I had already done a lot of the footwork for this design with my previous concepts, and it didn’t make sense to throw everything out.

This design has actually been about 90% finished for a few weeks, but there were a few parts that weren’t working, like the arms and legs.  I usually find that taking a break for a little while and coming back later to play with different ideas is the best way to get some fresh perspective on it.  In the past, a lot of my designs would turn out just ‘good enough.’  There would usually be aspects about them that bothered me, but I’d be too lazy to fix.  Instead, I decided that if there was any part of a design I wasn’t excited about or felt like it didn’t fit, it deserved special attention until I got it right.  For the longest time, the arms and legs weren’t working for me, so I kept trying things until I came to something I liked.  I had started getting a bit burned out on this for a while, which was expected, but I’m excited to push forward again.


Project Start


Ver. 1 – My first attempt at this character

The Orchid Mantis Project is something I’ve been wanting to tackle for a while, and I decided to finally give it a go.  This whole thing started as a one-off character from my sketchbook a few years ago that has grown into something more.  When I originally designed her, I was still learning a photoshop and digital painting techniques, so it was mostly to gain some practice.

While at San Diego Comic Con that year, I had a portfolio review from some of the professionals there.  They looked over it and gave me some good advice on changes I could make to the character.  After coming back home, I wanted to take another shot at it.


Ver. 2 – Redesigned after some feedback





Version 2 was more satisfying to me, and I learned a lot while working on it.  During my senior year in college, I decided to make this character part of my thesis project.  After a some further sketching, I wanted to do another version to fit the overall project, and push the insect features further.


Ver.3 – Pushing the Mantis features





After the 3rd version, I was satisfied with the direction it was going.  At the same time, I started getting into some 3D printing projects.  One project I really wanted to tackle was making an action figure.  I figured why not make one of this character I’ve been working on?  Once again, I wanted to redesign it, this time to work as an articulated figure.


Ver. 4 – Adding in some physical function





Since it was going to be a figure, I thought it would be cool to try to work in some little features, like making the helmet open, or giving it some small transformative features.  I’m writing this blog as a way to keep myself accountable to this project and keep a log of my progress.  Hopefully it can also serve as a guide to anyone else interested in doing something like this.

I’ve given myself a year to finish this thing.  Here in January, I am working on some new concepts and breakdowns for the figure (officially Version 5).  By March, I want to be modeling in 3D, and start some prototyping by May.  I’m looking forward to where this journey takes me.