Lady with a Space Ermine

The other day I was looking for any excuse, as usual, to not do any work. I needed to try out some techniques on some new illustrations I’m working on, original pen & ink art that will be for sale, in fact (stay tuned for news on those!). As I was arranging my art supplies […]

Cheap Robots & the Men Who Buy Them

Macro shot of a cheap transforming robot toy's head

I‘m very much an 80s kid. I grew up with Transformers and G.I. Joe, not Rugrats and Ed, Edd n Eddy. Though I did spend a good chunk of my childhood in the 90s, growing up in Muscat, away from the twin cultural juggernauts of India and the US, meant that some things arrived later, and stayed around more. And 80s cartoons, and a love of the toys that came with the subculture, is one of those things.

Now as an adult with a minor disposable income and questionable taste, I can indulge myself by getting some of the toys I just couldn’t as a kid. Alas, living in Dubai now means that toys are horrendously overpriced (seriously, one of those big Optimus Prime toys that cost $50 is over twice as much here), and I don’t really want to bother with shipping them in, because I have too much stuff anyway.

Still, once in a while I’ll pass through the supermarket’s toy section and come upon some cheap range of toys that are surprisingly good, if kitsch, and pick one up. The last time this happened I got the awesome Dark Warrior toy.

Today, I picked up this ‘Transbots’ action figure. It’s not particularly well painted, but the original mould (I’m guessing it was an official Transformer once***) is solid and for something that costs AED 24 it’s not bad at all. I literally haven’t played with it yet, but in robot mode it’s very poseable, with nicely jointed legs.

I have some Revell paints left over from when I bought a Star Wars jedi starfighter kit, and may repaint this guy at some point. And maybe I’ll even pick up another from this set to go with it.

So maybe I don’t have all the fancy toys I’d like to; honestly, I can’t say spending my money on a huge toy collection is a great idea. But I do have an increasing number of strange Chinese knock-offs, and they are for me what toys should be: fun.

Macro shot of a cheap transforming robot toy in its robot form


***(UPDATE: Identified the original as a Starscream toy from the Transformers: Cybertron ‘Galaxy Force’ line. This knockoff has basically stripped a few of the more complex clear plastic parts)

Swamp Crash, the Second

Swamp Crash Sketch, v2The last time I visited the swamp, things were a little different. Now, as you can see, the neighbourhood has developed a bit with proper buildings and nicely made roads (er, their somewhat unconventional building material notwithstanding).

Don’t assume that this urban renewal has done anything for the property rathes, though. Sure, the locals are friendly, will greet you with tooty grins (and they can’t wait to have you for dinner), but it’s sill a swamp that is prone to space ship crashes. Parking’s a bit of an issue, then.

My first sketch was in a notebook size, and I was very happy with it. I knew there was a lot that could be improved, and that the final illustration would be on a larger paper. So for this second try at it, I drew it on an A4 sheet. Also, this time I didn’t ink it in; the larger space allowed me to put down more pencil work without ending up with a grey mess (the main reason I ball-point inked the last one).


I’m not very happy with this sketch. The temples in the background certainly add intrigue, but much of the drama and atmosphere of the first sketch — the fact that very little could be seen in the shadows — was gone. The crashed space vessel’s new position allows me to show more of the wreckage, but it a finished piece the detail at play there may take away from the main part of the illustration, which is the two space exploreres and the monster. Also, the ‘camera angle’ of the image still needs to be made more dynamic and tightened up.

I find that I’m still a little too used to drawing small; as you can see the edges of this sheet are barely drawn in, and the people and the monster at the centre are much smaller in proportion with the whole page than they were in the first sketch. There was, admittedly, an attempt to make the scope of the image bigger in this, but that is only partly responsible of the small figures.

I think I might do one or two more goes at this before the final. One of them should be coloured in, as I haven’t experimented with how that will affect it (honestly, I hadn’t even decided on whether or not it would be a colour or black-and-white picture until now). That decision will affect how the final pencils or inks are done.

Oh well, live and learn, practice makes perfect, etc etc.