Goddess in Progress
It’s a rare slow news day in the crypto world, and the markets are still not looking definitive. $BTC is back near $35,000 and $ETH is attempting to maintain a price over $2,000, indicating that we’re not capitulating to the downside just yet.
Yesterday, I dropped my new piece “T4N6” on the Binance NFT marketplace. It’s currently on auction until Tuesday the 29th. I’m particularly proud of T4N6 because it brings together so many different disciplines, and is massively elevated by Ian Magbanua’s amazing score. I wanted to spend today’s newsletter sharing some notes on how it was made.
All of my work tends to begin with a quick-and-dirty draft that attempts to block out all the major elements of the composition. This rough was made on March 6th using the excellent iPad drawing app Procreate.
As you can see, the concept is fully formed at this stage: a six-armed cyborg goddess playing a kulintang. The details that would later change included the background (more on this later) and the tools that she was meant to be holding. Typically these roughs are little more than doodles and notes-to-self, but I also took a stab at the stylings and finalized all the proportions (how big are the kulintang pieces relative to our main character? how far will her hands reach out from the center? how much negative space will we see below and above her?). Back then I was going for a more H.R. Giger kind of look with her bone structure, but then I remembered that it wasn’t the 1980’s anymore.
It took about a month before I found time again to move to the next stage: line art and lighting. At this point, I’m in my main drawing program, Clip Studio, and the production file I’m working in will be the one that I eventually ship. I never trace over my roughs — they’re only meant to tighten up the concept and to plan the production — so this is a complete redraw. You’ll notice that many details are different. Her face is much more mainstream, and the headpiece has been exaggerated to Amidala-esque proportions. Importantly, I’ve solved the logistical challenge of how the goddess is supposed to play 8 kulintang gongs with a single hand. (Answer: split her fingers!) A full kulintang ensemble typically includes these massive hanging gongs, but I ended up replacing them with “statement” items: heart, book, scales, beaker.
It was another long stretch before I found time to come back to T4N6, which was now at the painting stage. At this point, it’s early May and I’ve figured out that (a) I should be painting on black and (b) the animation work is going to be insane. I’m alternating my evenings between painting the details on the goddess’ headpiece and body, and animating the individual finger segments using Adobe Animate.
With the painting and the animation both nearing 90% completion, I moved on to the biggest question mark of this whole project: how was I going to synchronize the visuals with Ian’s score? The moving fingers were one thing, but the music was so big and bold that it seemed like the picture space should be impacted more by its presence. Eventually, a design solution presented itself that would’ve made my art school teachers proud: I could make a self-referential, giant kulintang in the empty space behind her. (And because this was cryptoart, the head of the that kulintang was rendered as a moon, of course.)
With that solution in place, the only problem left was how to fill the “body” of the giant kulintang. After a lot of Googling and Youtubing and endless hours of throwaway experiments, I found a software package called Trapcode Particular for Adobe After Effects. One of its many uses included a method for programming particle systems that could react in real-time to music, with specific behaviors distinguished by frequency. If all of that sounds like gobbledigook to you, don’t worry, I was exactly the same less than two months ago.
And that’s how we got to the finished product! While I’ve got you all here, I’d like to give a shoutout to some folks from the Binance NFT team — Yian, Drew, and Geoff — who helped get us minted and listed. You can bid on this piece on Binance right now right here. Please share this post with your friends in the art community!
See you all bright and early on Monday morning, cryptofam!