Bring me the head of John Scalzi!

In which Camestros discovers an ability to do caricature.

The story so far. As an off-the-cuff joke I made an avatar of myself as a Lego-like mini-figure. Then, having noticed the similarity between ‘Hugo’ and ‘Lego’ I tried to do a Hugo Award set of figures. While George R.R. Martin looked OK (beard, fisherman’s cap – easy!) my Vox Day figure was a bit nondescript (guy in shades with stubble) and John Scalzi was a generic guy with beard.

A lurker-in-email (my lurkers support me with helpful pictures) suggested this approach:

hugo my lego

🙂 Generic heads will solve many issues and asterisk heads are semiotically flexible.

Still I did want to finish a slightly better John Scalzi and give the figure a mallet. However to do that I really needed to get to grips with how textures map onto shapes. This is geometrically fascinating as it deals with how two-dimensional coordinates projects onto a 2D surface that curves through a third dimension. The most encountered instance of this problem is how you get a map of the world to work as a 2D rectangle when the Earth’s surface lie on a sphere (OK, OK an a oblate spheroid).

The solid I’m using for the heads are called capsules in Cheetah3D and are cylinders with curved ends. I haven’t tried to directly replicate the canonical Lego-head as I don’t want exact mini-fig relpicas, just the general idea of them.

To put a texture on the surface of a capsule I need the UV map. U and V in this context are the coordinates of points on the surface. Each point has a UV coordinate and those coordinates can then be rendered as a 2D rectangle in a graphics program. Here is the capsule UV map (with a lego-yellow background).


The triangles at the top and bottom show how the polygons meet up at the north and south pole of the capsule.

I then added some guidelines to help me place the bits of a face.


And then spent a longish time working out hair, specs, beard etc on a separate layer. Which also involved looking at many pictures of his head – yup, trying to make a simple visual pun involving ‘Hugo’ and ‘Lego’ led me into a strange world of trying to find the quintessential picture of John Scalzi’s head. There are a LOT of pictures of John Scalzi I should note – and that really doesn’t help.


But obviously then export the image without all the guidelines.


Hmm still doesn’t look like Mr Scalzi! His head has some eldritch geometry that I cannot master! I have failed caricature. I’m still going to add a mallet and a cat though.


14 thoughts on “Bring me the head of John Scalzi!

  1. I also went and looked at many images of his head, and you’re right! It’s a lot trickier than I’d appreciated. He’s forever inconveniently changing his hair and beard – someone should tell him to hold still and be caricatured, damn it. Apart from the glasses he’s not got a significant feature to latch on to. This must be why political cartoonists resort to props for context – hammer and cat are clearly the way forward.
    Then you can give VD a flaming sword and pose them in mortal combat. Or, more realistically, VD in mortal combat and Scalzi ignoring him.


  2. I think the Mallet and kitty in addition to beard, glasses, and red shirt will be sufficient. I mean, it’s only the beard and cap that made the GRRM obvious.

    I wish to make it known that I have never sent Camestros an email. I support him in comments.

    Perhaps for the next iteration, you could have a generic fan (can you render a propeller beanie?) chatting with Scalzi and GRRM, and Mr. Flaming Sword over on the side all ready for battle and being ignored. Maybe one fan talking to JS and GRRM, another two or three chatting amongst themselves waving books and in costume or wearing appropriate t-shirts (dragons, spaceships, the number 770). Some of the fans need to be female and non-white. Non-yellow?


      1. Aw darn. Not surprising, though, water is tough.

        I’m sure Scalzi will like it when it’s done, he likes the fan art of himself and seems like a dude who also likes Legos.


  3. Not that I’m saying anyone is obliged to do this, but I think the appropriate visual metaphor for the Vox Vs Scalzi “fight” would resemble the fight between Neo and Agent Smith at the end of the First (only) Matrix movie ( Vox throwing more and more furious attacks while scalzi parries them without even paying attention. with added flaming sword and mallet, natually

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