from the Curator's Office:
Art Project for a Favorite Novel II: War of the Worlds
Back in 2009 I created a tribute art piece to one
of my favorite books, the classic 20,000 Leagues Under the
Sea by Jules Verne. My idea was to create a display of objects
collected by a character in the book. In the case of that 2009
project the character I chose was Professor Aronnax who narrates
The objects I created for that
project all fit into a shadow box. They included the Professor's
diary, some Photoshopped photos, notes, a map and a preserved
piece of tentacle from a giant squid. These were all items related
to Verne's story of three 19th century men made unwilling passengers
on a then futuristic submarine, the Nautilus, by its eccentric
captain, a man named Nemo.
Sometime after I completed this effort I wrote about
the project in my column and was contacted by gentleman in Japan
who was a fan of the book interested in acquiring my creation.
Having owned it and enjoyed it for a couple years I decided I
was ready to part with it and use the money to create another
piece of art.
My new project was a similar tribute, but this time
to H.G. Wells' novel War of the Worlds. I didn't want just
to turn out shadow box after shadow box, however, so I looked
for another form to display the art. I soon came across boxes
that designed to look like oversized books and decided to purchase
one and convert it to the display box for this undertaking.
I really liked the concept of having the box disguised
as a book and having it open to reveal not the text itself, but
objects from within the story. The book/box I settled on was the
largest I could find with dimensions of 13 1/2 by 11 1/2 by 3
With problem of the container solved the next challenge
was to create a cover for the exterior of the book. H.G. Wells
War of the Worlds was originally published in 1897 and
there has been almost countless reprints in the intervening years.
If you doubt it, check out Chez Zeus's site http://drzeus.best.vwh.net/wotw/wotw.html
where he displays the covers for 528 of them. After examining
a number of these different title images for inspiration, I decided
to create an original cover for my project featuring a faux publishing
company. This eliminated the possibility of any copyright infringement
and allowed me the pleasure of coming up with my own interpretation
for the cover.
Looking at the actual covers, however, helped me
select a style I liked. I wanted an image that was colorful with
plenty of action. Drawing on my own work with an eComic
of War of the Worlds I had illustrated in 2007, I created
an image showing a pair of Martian fighting machines attacking
a London icon, the Tower Bridge. The image was created using Bryce,
a 3D modeling and rendering program.
This image went on the front cover, while a similar
image, a fighting machine next to the tower of Big Ben, was made
for the rear cover, also using Bryce. The two images were composited
using Photoshop along with the title and other text you might
typically find on a book cover into a single large image file
designed to wrap around the book. A large format poster-type printer
was then used to print the cover at a size appropriate for the
box. The cover was then mounted onto the box with a glue similar
to wallpaper paste.
Since the inside of the box was less a book and
more a display case, I lined it using something similar to wallpaper
that had been popular in the late 19th century when the book was
What exactly to put inside the book was the next
question. Some objects were obvious. The photos I had created
for the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea project had been very
effective so I wanted to create similar ones for War of the
Worlds. The shape of the box when opened was a large flat
panel on the left hand-side and a 3 inch deep box on the right.
The large flat area provided an excellent location for photographs
that required little depth.
Starting with historic photos of London, I used
Bryce to create Martian fighting machines posed to match the pictures
and composited these into the photos using Photoshop. Photoshop
was also used to remove any objects from the photos that seemed
inconsistent with the late 19th century era. I created four photos
and chose two to mount in the project using a mounting technique
appropriate for to the early 20th century.
This mounting method depended on small trianglar
paper corners that hold the pictures by the edges. This avoids
the photograph having to be glued to something and makes them
removable. A few decades ago these corners were commercially available,
but are no longer produced today. With black construction paper,
scissors and little careful folding, however, I was able to reproduce
these, giving the photos the feeling of having been mounted on
the surface many decades ago.
At this point, however, I reached an impasse in
the project. What should the deep section of the box contain?
At first I considered the tip of a mechanical tentacle from one
of the fighting machines. However, a tentacle had been featured
on the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea project and I really
felt wanted to do something different.
Not being inspired I decided to put the project
on hold for a while until I was really came up with an idea for
that part of the box that resonated with what I was trying to
At the end of 2015 my son talked me into purchasing
a 3D printer. While he needed it for some engineering projects
I saw it as a tool for creating art and this brought back to mind
the War of the Worlds project.
I'd always enjoyed science fiction movies, science
fiction props and especially ray guns. It occurred to me that
now owning a 3D printer would allow me to create a ray gun design
of my own. Furthermore it could be the centerpiece of the War
of the Worlds project. While the Martians using personal weapons
isn't mentioned in H.G. Wells book, it is logical that they might
carry sidearms that were miniature versions of the destructive
"heat ray" mounted on their fighting machines.
My design for the ray gun had some caveats. First,
it had to fit into the available space in the box. Second it should
be immediately recognizable to the casual observer as a ray gun.
Finally there should be some consideration to the idea that the
weapon was an alien device, not human produced.
The great thing about using a 3D printer is that
what you can make, for the most part, is only limited by what
your mind can conceive. After visualizing the design in my head
I used the Byrce 3D design software to create the object on my
desktop computer. It looks much like a traditional ray gun with
art deco influences. Because it is Martian and not terrestrial
it is slightly bigger than a hand gun and its grip is not meant
to be held by human hands, but by a tentacle that wraps around
the it. Where the magazine might be found on some traditional
pistols (like the Mauser C96), just forward of the grip, the ray
gun had a detachable object that looks at bit like an old radio
tube. The idea is that the tube would be charged up with energy
for the gun and could be replaced with a new tube when exhausted.
As the bed size of my 3D printer was not extremely
large, the gun was designed in 6 pieces and assembled later on.
This made painting and the removal of any supports necessary during
printing process easier as the supports could be put on a unfinished
surface meant to interface with other parts of the gun.
In addition to the gun a "Martian Campaign Metal"
was also designed and printed on the 3D printer This object was
an insignia worn by Martians to indicate they are veterans of
the Conquest of Earth campaign and shows a Martian tentacle gripping
a helpless human form. I also included a sketch made by a reporter
at one of the Martian battles.
The final element of the display is a 3D printed
frame with some explanation of the work:
The Artillery Man's Collection Private Edward
J. Smythe served as a driver for the 3 Brigade RFA during the
war with the Martians. After the cessation of hostilities he became
obsessed with collecting Martian artifacts in an attempt to understand
them. While this assembly includes photographs, sketches and what
appears to be a Martian campaign medal, the prize of his collection
was a Martian handgun version of their deadly heat-ray. Smythe
failed to ever penetrate its secrets, however. Warning: though
the example here is believed to be deactivated, an incident with
a similar device in 1942 led to the accidental self-immolation
of its owner.
I tried to give the explanation of the work a bit
of dark humor. The artillery man is actually a character in the
book. He's never named, however, so I had to invent a name --
Edward Smythe -- for him.
Overall I'm very happy with the piece and the freedom
that the 3D printer gives me to create almost any object I need.
I'm sure it will be a tool I will use in my next classic novel
2016 Lee Krystek. All Rights Reserved.