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The AwesomeCon 2014 Roadshow Panel

These are images from the “Free Drawings for Total Strangers Roadshow” at AwesomeCon last weekend.

Typically, our panel description is as follows:
“Free Drawings for Total Strangers” (fdfts.com) is the cute and often twisted webcomic by Jason Thomas who bases it on the true life stories of strangers and readers. FDfTS has been compared to riding down a hill in a refrigerator box that is filled with delicious treats that you cannot enjoy because they are bouncing around so much, they’re upsetting you. Panel features Jason Thomas’ awful stories, giveaways of paintings, t-shirt, sticker & prints, as well as a truly delightful and odd multimedia presentation.
You will hate this.

Here is a glimpse of what one of our roadshows is like.

Roadshow_01That’s Peter in the front of the line for the FDfTS Roadshow. Later, he will be playing the part of a chicken for everyone’s amusement. The third person with her fist raised is someone we now know as “Excitement Girl”.

Alyssa and Lawrence were a couple of fans who helped out a lot with this panel. Alyssa took these pictures, and they’re great. Lawrence helped with everything else. THANKS, GUYS!

Roadshow_02Everyone is filing in to the room. The panel description on AwesomeCon’s website clearly said “You will hate this” and said nothing about free waffles, so I actually don’t know how so many people showed up, but we had a full room!  I don’t remember what I was telling people here, but Excitement Girl thought it was REALLY FUNNY!

Roadshow_03Here’s Teeter making waffles while I’m telling the parrot story. The moment where people realize there will be “Free Waffles for Total Strangers” is always an exciting one.

Roadshow_04Lookit! That guy wants a waffle REALLY BADLY! You can see the slide that talks about waffles in the background, so it’s actually a great action shot. I wish Alyssa was always our photographer!

Roadshow_05The front row is now full of waffle hopefuls! You can see many things happening in this photo. The adorable kid who is shamelessly photobombing, actually did that in EVERY PHOTO HE’S IN! The guy on the right, I started calling “Waffle Fanatic”. He was hillarious. His love of waffles is boundless. We’ll get back to him later. Also, we are out of sprinkles.

Roadshow_08There’s our little photobomber! He’s clearly excited about the panel, as well as being cast in “The Music Man”.

Roadshow_06I’m not even going to start to talk about what’s happening here. There’s Lawrence, in the shiny helmet!

Roadshow_07Everyone got a sticker, and some people got free paintings and such. We always give out freebies for interaction and interesting questions. Here you can see me signing stickers and things.

Sigh. Excitement Girl, Lawrence, Peter, Waffle Fanatic… this is where they go their separate ways. There is an air of sadness, as it is a time of goodbyes. They will remember the good times, and know that they have another year before they get to sit with their roadshow family again. Maybe they’ll write each other. I hope so.

Roadshow_09Let’s all take a moment, and celebrate Waffle Fanatic. Remember him the way he was. He’s either professing his love of waffles when asked, “Who here likes waffles”, or being concerned that he may not get one of his favorite Belgian delights. He’s happiest when he’s made it to the very front of the line, awaiting the first waffle of the day. You can see him in the VIP seat, after winning the “Who loves waffles the most in all the world” competition.

We will miss you so much, Waffle Fanatic. We hope you’re doing okay out there, wherever you are. Probably at Denny’s or something.

- Jason

What We Make: Electric Panda Edition

Do you guys like How It’s Made on the Science Channel? We pretty much love it. It’s so mesmerizing to watch how they make hot tubs or sousaphones or tiny paper umbrellas. Since we were creating an all new design for the 2013 Holiday Season (these adorable Electric Pandas) we thought we would do a special Red Rocket Farm version of a How It’s Made episode just for you guys. Are you excited? BECAUSE I’M EXCITED.

Okay, here we go. It all starts with Jason creating the design. He spends hours making sure the panda has just the right cute-but-dead-behind-the-eyes stare, dangly stub arms, and a paunchy little body. One cup of cute, one cup of sad.

Then he separates each color into different images, then changes them all to opaque black. This is called, “color separation”. The separations are then printed out onto transparent film.

Electric Panda Transparencies

Some of our designs have as many as 11 or 12 colors, but Electric Panda –like his biological brethren –are relatively two-tone, so the design is only 4 colors. White, dark gray, and black are shown above.

A transparency is then placed on a silk-screen with a layer of light-sensitive goop (technical term) spread on it. We hit the screen with a bunch of UV light from a neato piece of equipment called an “exposure unit.” The light hits the goop where the transparency is clear, hardening it. The parts of the screen that are behind the black parts of the transparency remain…well…goopy.

Glowing Panda Screen

The exposure unit it pretty much everyone’s favorite toy. It glows a beautiful bluish violet and makes magical science-y things happen.

We take a pressure washer (while pretending its a Proton Pack) and wash out all the unexposed goop. We end up with a negative image of the transparency. IT’S SCIENCE! We have to make a separate screen for every color, and the images have to be in about the same place on every one. That will make our next step a lot easier.

Panda Screens

Don’t judge our dingy, painty screens. Each screen is reusable, so these guys are veterans. The dark gray screen in the middle is only 5 weeks from retirement. Crista will probably get him a cake.

Once the screens are ready, we line them up on the table and get ready to print. We print on boards of wood that we place on the table on pegs so they stay still. One board is set aside with a transparency taped to it. This allows us to line each screen up to that board (in the screen printing world, this is called “registration”). That way, each screen comes down in exactly the same place and the images all line up with each other.

Crista Printing

Occasionally there are shenanigans. Okay…usually.

Once a screen is registered, we fill it with paint and begin printing on each board. If we’ve done it just right, each color lines up perfectly with the color before it.

Black and White

At this point, two colors are printed – dark gray and white. This is, coincidentally, the bare minimum number of colors needed to make a panda.

Three colors

Shading is pretty subtle on the final product, but it makes a huge difference in making the Electric Panda’s look 3-Dimensional.

All done

The finished Electric Pandas look longingly at you. Sometimes it’s hard to keep from snuggling them.

The last layer is almost always the black outline. This is always the most exciting color because it ties the whole thing together. It makes such a huge difference, and the role of printer is always an enviable one when it comes to the final color.

Jason's special day

Jason triumphantly prints the last layer. The rest of us look on with jealousy.

When all the colors are printed, the boards are set aside to fully dry before they are cut down.

Sleep pandas sleep

The Electric Panda army rests for the night. They are but halfway through their journey.

Each and every Electric Panda (or robot, octopus, cloud or space cat) has to be cut out by hand on a scroll saw. The boards are cut down to manageable tiles on a table saw, and the tiles are placed on the shelf, ready to be scroll sawed.

Scroll sawing Jason

Jason carefully saws out the small Electric Panda while Domers watch from the shelf.

Scroll sawing out each Electric Panda takes quite a long time, and you must be very careful to stay right on the black outline. It’s difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, scroll sawing is a very Zen-like job. We’ll even put on West Wing or Star Trek while we scroll saw. Just don’t look up (no matter how interesting that Gorn fight might be) or the blade could slip.

Once the Electric Pandas are cut out, the edges are painted black, and a similarly edged wooden spacer is glued to the back.

Gluing spacer

This is the secret to Red Rocket Farm’s 3D effect! SECRETS REVEALED!

While the wood glue dries on the foreground, it’s time to make the backgrounds. “It’s time to make the backgrounds” is actually what Maia says every morning when she wakes up. These backgrounds begin with a couple of layers of airbrushing.

Airbrushing Maia

Maia brushes on a dark green haze over the bright green layer to make a gradient. Airbrushing etiquette: always have your pinkie out!

After airbrushing, we screen print the circuit board pattern onto the background.

Screen printing crista

This large background is placed below the screen that has a wooden riser to accommodate the extra height of the thick background wood.

Screen printing ensures the image will be nice and crisp. The circuit board pattern ensures that the painting will look CRAZY-TECHNO-AWESOME.

Screen printed background

Fun fact: Electric Pandas are the very first Red Rocket Farm design to have screen printing directly on the background. This allows us to create a lot more detail and intricacy.

For our larger paintings, we always like to add an additional 3D effect. For our large Electric Pandas, this comes in the form of blue and yellow nodes that pop out of the background. The first step to making the nodes is drilling out shallow holes in the background using our next awesome toy/equipment: the drill press.

drill press

One time, I put a dough hook on the drill press and used it to make doughnuts.The result: deliciousness….and a sticky drill press.

Meanwhile, the wooden plugs that will become our nodes get a fancy paint job. We use neon yellow and blue to make sure the nodes really pop on the green background.

Painting the nodes

We want these to resemble shiny computer parts. It sometimes takes a few layers to make sure the paint layers are opaque enough.

Each node is plugged into its perfectly-sized hole with a dollop of wood glue to make sure it stays put.

inserting nodes

When Maia was a little girl, she told her parent that she wanted to play Tetris for a living. DREAMS ACHIEVED.

The foreground is then screwed into the finished background. We use a pneumatic staple gun to attach a jute rope to the back as a hanger. The hanger should be wide and lose enough to make the painting easy to balance when hung up, but it can’t be so long that it hangs over the top of the painting.

attaching hanger

When you load the staples in to the staple gun, you slide the clip in with a satisfying click. I really enjoy that. It makes me feel like Lara Croft.

Meanwhile, in Orlando, Dave gets the website ready so that our Electric Pandas can be up on the store the minute they’re done.

    Look how sad Dave is to be in his pristine, not-covered in paint work environment. He may look like he's smiling, but the lack of sawdust all over his clothing paints a tragic picture.

Look how sad Dave is to be in his pristine, not-covered in paint work environment. He may look like he’s smiling, but the lack of sawdust all over his clothing paints a tragic picture.

Once the painting is all assembled, its time for varnishing. Varnishing makes sure that your painting can withstand household elements like humid climates, dirty hands, and sniffy cat noses. It also makes the entire piece look so shiny and beautiful.

varnished pandas

These Electric Pandas are taking a sunbath to let the varnish dry. I told them to put on some zinc oxide, but Electric Pandas are notoriously hard-headed.

There they are! Ready to be shipped to your home. But wait! They need one last thing.

sticker placing

I obviously have the most important job. Good thing I got that BA in Western Sticker Placement Theory. It really is a lost art.

Every painting gets a sticker on the back that says: “Made with Love”. And it’s true! Just look at all these production photos, and you can totally tell.

I hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at how we make art! There’s a lot of steps to make one Electric Panda, but we truly love each and every one.

If you want your own Electric Panda paintings, both sizes are available in the store.
(Right now, Electric Pandas are 10% off)

Our First 3000 “Likes” on Facebook

Crista has been obsessively watching our Facebook popularity grow, and she’s pretty obsessed with it. When we made it to 3000 Likes, she was at home, counting down like it was New Year’s Eve.

The 3000

When she came in to work the next day, she surprised everyone with this cake!
Thanks, all the new Facebook fans! We love you!

You can check out our Facebook page here, and see what all the fuss is about.

Holiday Wallpaper!

All of us here at Red Rocket Farm are incredibly grateful to our fans (this means you!), and we wanted to give a little piece of holiday cheer to adorn your desktop with.

Click on the image below to choose your wallpaper, and make sure you set it to “tile” for the best effect! Unless your looking at it on a very very small screen, in which case, leave it as is!

Click on the image to see it full size, and right click, and choose “save”.  If you’re having any trouble setting the image as your background, use these handy links to walk you through: Windows or Mac

tilebgrrf

Wishlist Contest, win an iPad Air!

Are you a CREATIVE and WEIRD person? We made a app just for you! It’s the Red Rocket Farm Wishlist Creator!

The top wishlist will get an iPad Air, and all the items on your wishlist!

You could make one with the all-new Electric Panda, or Space Cat!

comics2

 

 

 

 

Make one of your own at the Red Rocket Farm Wishlist Creator!

New Shirt: Susan the Panda!

Pandas are SO cute!  Except when they are stabbing you in the neck and drinking your life force out like you were some kind of people-flavored Capri Sun.  Then they’re just sorta cute.

Hand-Printed by us, on a lovely leaf green, 100% cotton.

Susan Mens_Promo_700Susan_FullScreen_800

BiscuitBox Shirt is now in our store!

It’s a shirt design that was licensed to the Jon Wye store for a while, but now Biscuitbox is back and better than ever!

Biscuitbox Mens_Promo_700Biscuitbox_FullScreen_800

 

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