Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Birthday Boy of Oz: L Frank Baum

One of our favourite days is here: May 15 - L Frank Baum's birth-date.

Literally a man of many talents (and trial and errors) who found his true calling later in life, making the most of what he did with the ones he loved and making others happy, more than even he could have possibly wildly imagined!

Two of the Biography books written about him, on either side of a page from the oversize "Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz" book by Hungry Tiger Press

Whether they were Fantasy, contemporary, Politically Romantic ("Daughters of Destiny"), science-fiction, exotic adventures or even articles.
Whether he was an author, actor, playwright, salesman, shopkeeper or whatever job he took ... he certainly touched a lot of people, made a lot of connections and released a surprising amount of ideas.

Most of all he has brought so many people together, he has created Friendships and given us beloved gatherings.

He was a man, simply trying to find his way with the right job in life, who became a Creator and Royal Historian with his dream world.

Much has been written about him and his writings, especially a certain production of a particular book which brought him security and recognition, but we may never truly fully know every single tiny little thing about him, nor should we.
We have had a semi-accurate (and that term should be considered loosely) onscreen portrayal of his writings ... so hopefully someday we will get an accurate biographical dramatization of the man.

Thank You L Frank Baum for Oz and the many stories you have given us to read ... not just fairylands, but the Flying Girl, Aunt Jane's Nieces, the Master Kay, Sam Steele / the Boy Fortune Hunters, Annabelle and many more stand-alone books and series!

We salute and applaud you sir!

Thursday, April 04, 2019

GoFundMe OzCon Campaign

OzCon International is just a few months away, held on July 26-28 at the Kellogg West Conference Center.

This is certainly a BIG one: Celebrating the writings of L Frank Baum (who passed away in 1919) and the 80th Anniversary of MGM's "Wizard of Oz"

Everybody loves to go, though sometimes there are those who may have a little difficulty doing so, whether it's due to money or distance.

That is why I have made this campaign to ask for help, so that I may not miss out on this special event.

Normally I rely on myself and don't ask for assistance, but there are times you need to take a chance and ask for help, then see who is willing and able to help.
It's a reasonable goal and will cover the main expenses: travel, accommodation and spending.

If all goes well, some of the extra money may go to attending next year's OzCon in 2010, to celebrating "Glinda of Oz".

If you are able to help donate and spread the word around for this, that would truly show the spirit of the Oz community - where you help someone, just as Dorothy selflessly helped the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman get out of their positions through the goodness of her own heart.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-me-attend-ozcon-2019


Please and Thank you.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Meet artist David Valentin

Ever wanted to see the Oz characters in 3D, looking just like how John R. Neill drew them? Artist David Valentin has begun modeling them as a hobby. He's shared with us his work so far, Tik-Tok, the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow, Jack Pumpkinhead and the Sawhorse.

And to make this a bit more than just showing off some cool art, we did a little Q&A over e-mail.

How did you get interested in Oz?
My love of Oz began very early. Growing up, the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz was my favorite fantasy film and watching it on television every year was a special treat for myself and my siblings. This was before VCRs and DVDs so as a child, watching it on TV was the only way to see it and it was an exciting event for me.

In 1989, I purchased The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History and it was at that time that I was introduced to the Oz Books by L. Frank Baum. I immediately purchased as many of the Oz Books I could find, mostly via Books of Wonder, a children’s bookstore in NYC that published great facsimile editions of the Oz Books. I was always a fan of all things Disney, Fantasy, and Science Fiction and Oz certainly fit the bill.

Years later, at age 17, my very first job was working at Books of Wonder and it was my love of Oz that started it. Of course, at the time, I think the majority of my paycheck went right back to Books of Wonder to pay for Oz books and Oz items. I’m sure the owners didn’t mind. I also began collecting Oz items wherever I could find them. Below are images of my collection when I had them displayed. Today, most of my collection is in storage where I someday hope to have the additional room to display them again. 

 
What do you do when you're not recreating the beloved characters in 3D?
Sketching and 3D Art have been a hobby of mine for over 20 years. Most of my professional work include architectural renders and character design for games including animation. I’ve attached a few examples of some of that work including one project that I completed for Topps Trading Cards a few years ago. It was to create 60 Sketch Cards that would be included in their Star Wars Chrome Perspectives Jedi Vs Sith Hobby Box. When I’m not busy, I spend the majority of my time learning new software and watching tutorials that I can utilize to bring my ideas to life.
  
In addition to my freelance work, I work at New York University full time which has allowed me the opportunity to further my education and explore new technologies in Digital Arts. I have been lucky enough to have been taught by some incredible instructors who work at Blue Sky Studios, Weta Digital, and Marvel Studios. One instructor of mine worked his magic on James Cameron's Avatar and taught me the same techniques he created for the texturing and painting of the main characters in the film.

How did you start modeling the Oz characters?
Unfortunately, due to contractual restrictions, I am not able to showcase most of the work I create professionally so knew I wanted to start a project that I could share with others. 

Being a huge fan of John R. Neill and his illustrations, I decided to create the Oz characters in 3D based on his work. There are thousands of Oz artists out there who have completely reimagined the characters throughout the years but I wanted to go back to the original illustrations and see what I could come up with. With the advances of 3D technology and my passion to further explore the different types of software available, I was finally able to create the first 5 characters, Tik-Tok, The Scarecrow, The Tin Woodman, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the Sawhorse.

What software do you use?
For the five characters I created, I used the following software packages: Blender, Chaos VRay, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Marvelous Designer, and ZBrush.
 
Though it can easily become quite overwhelming, planning each stage is extremely important and there is always trial and error. The majority of the time is spent on testing materials, lighting, and textures for the characters. 
 
Before even beginning any of the work on the computer, I try and gather as much reference as possible. Luckily there are great images online for most of the Oz Characters and I gather the best ones for reference (Fig.1).

In Fig. 02, I block the initial pose for Jack Pumpkinhead using basic geometry until I get it right. I then pose a rigged “Stand In” character to pose the body. This is done using Blender, a 3D Modeling Program. I created certain characters like the Tin Woodman and Tik-Tok using a joint system which allows me to pose them in any way and if I ever want to animate them in the future, it will save me considerable time. Example of two different poses I created for the Tin Woodman can be seen in Fig. 02. 

Once I have the final pose, I import him into Marvelous Designer (Fig. 03) which is a clothing simulation software. I create each article of clothing using patterns and stitch them onto the character. Once I get this right, I export the clothes into ZBrush, which is a sculpting programs where I add the details.

Fig. 04 shows the original clothes I created for the Scarecrow before I changed his pose along with various heads I created for Jack. I use a Wacom Tablet with ZBrush to sculpt the details. It feels like playing with digital clay and you can add as much detail as you want.

The next stage (Fig. 05) involves using Photoshop and Illustrator to create all the textures that will be applied to the final model. You can think of textures like wrapping paper that completely surrounds the model to give it the look. Texturing a character takes the most time as I’m constantly testing the look development of the scene.

Next stage is lighting the scene using virtual lights. In Fig.06 you see a test using outdoor lighting that I didn’t wind up using for Jack Pumpkinhead.

Finally, a scene is rendered in the computer using Chaos VRay and I combine all the render elements back into Photoshop. Fig.07 shows six of the render passes I use most of the time but more complex scenes use about a dozen separate passes.

Finally I combine and tweak all the passes to create the final completed render (Fig.08, at the top of this post.)

What are your favorite Oz books, films, plays, music, etc.?
Besides the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz film, I enjoy all of Baum’s books but especially enjoy The Marvelous Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz. I reread Marvelous Land right before leaving my small town in Puerto Rico after finishing high school. I moved back to NYC on my own when I was 17 and while I never met any talking Pumpkins, I can surely say that most of the people I met at the time in NYC were just as colorful. 
 
I’ve seen many stage shows of The Wizard of Oz including one in Madison Square Garden which starred Eartha Kitt as the Wicked Witch and Mickey Rooney as the Wizard and also had the opportunity to attend an Oz Benefit Concert starring the singer Jewel as Dorothy. While all were entertaining, I found a VHS Copy of the Children’s Theatre Company production of The Marvelous Land of Oz to be most faithful to Baum’s Oz. Another favorite of mine is Disney’s Return to Oz because it features more of the characters found in later Oz books. While I absolutely love the visuals in Disney’s Oz The Great and Powerful, I personally wished they had stuck to the original stories.

What are some of your favorite things about Oz?
I think the overall theme in the first Wizard of Oz story is a sentiment I hold very dear to my heart. In the end of the first book, Dorothy and the other characters finally realize everything they always wanted was already within themselves. I remember as a child believing in that and it suddenly became clear that life wouldn’t have to be a struggle. It’s a belief I wished more people possessed, especially these days where people blame others for their unhappiness. One cannot find happiness anywhere unless you already have that happiness within.
 
And last but most important, tolerance and acceptance of everyone is key within the Land of Oz, where we find thousands of different types of characters who all learn to work and live with one another. This to me is why I love Oz so much and wish more people would learn from reading the beloved stories by L. Frank Baum.

If you enjoyed seeing David's work, check out his website and follow him on Instagram.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Hit the Bricks with PJ Blankenship

After a long hiatus, the Royal Podcast of Oz returns as Jay chats with PJ Blankenship, creator of the upcoming Hit the Bricks, a fiction podcast featuring modern adventures in Oz!

You can listen, download and subscribe at the podcast site, or use the players and links below. The Royal Podcast of Oz is available on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play Music and other podcast services and aggregators that mirror these.



Right-click to download the episode.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Oz in 2019!

Happy New Year everybody!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately from all of us (and for those of you who don't like keep hearing "happy new year" after a week).

Calendar by the International Wizard of Oz Club, each month focusing on a certain possession of a different member with a story

Oz has a few specials this 2019:
* 100 years since L Frank Baum died on May 6, 9 days before his birthday, before his penultimate book "Magic of Oz" was published
* 80th Anniversary of the 1939 MGM film

More updates and Announcements will be declared once information has been known.

Personally, I will making work on MANY Oz illustrations for a few story / book-related projects as well as continuing with my Oz-related commission (check out "Devotion" on DeviantArt to find out - there should be 14 pages, so just check my page for any missing pages - Hand-Sam-Art).

There are also some new Oz books I have and will be reading soon, so when I can I may provide reviews.


Not much to read now, but a small update never hurts.

Here's a good one for all of us and Oz this year!