How I Built Kakalea
by Chris Wayan, 2015
for your inner geek
More worlds? Planetocopia!
I'll start off with a section stolen from the "Geology" page about my motive for building Kakalea, then show the nuts and bolts.
Kakalea was created to make a point: worlds with plenty of air, water and land, with Earthlike temperature and chemistry, can still be largely barren due to geography alone.
There's an easy example of my point in Earth's past: Pangea. It's still true, in fact: the Old World is really a supercontinent, with a huge, harsh interior, mostly desert, steppe and thin boreal forest.
But I wanted to show a different ecopoverty, due only to continental locations, orientations and shapes, not bunching. Hence Kakalea has deliberately un-grouped continents with plenty of sea around them; it's an anti-Pangea.
That means what dominated Kakalea's development wasn't tectonic plausibility. I roughed in the continents first, then worked backward, defining plates, rifts and trenches. The result looks plausible on a continental scale, even a hemispheric one, but looks too even, too neatly spaced, when seen as a whole by a geologically literate Terran. Kakalea's creator isn't an Intelligent Designer, but a Pedestrian sort: call him Plod.
What Kakalea's evenly spaced lands look like, really, is a child's fantasy--an ecotopia where it's all fertile, happy, neat... a veritable suburbia of laid-out continents. Or a well-ordered farm district: the Shire, not the wilds of Middle Earth.
And it should work. Ocean all around! This is known as Geographic Irony. Though I suppose for most readers the irony will be, um, dry.
The physical construction of Kakalea was simple--one of the easiest worlds I ever built. I bought an old globe in a yard sale and just started painting on it, enlarging Australia, then adding more desert continents, then even more, in an orgy of orange. My reasons weren't scientific but emotional. I'd just finished Lyr, a huge oceanic super-Earth, and I was sick of blue, blue, blue. I wanted hot. And not a bone-dry world, all red the way Lyr was all green and blue. I wanted CONTRAST. Hot and cool colors. Dry and wet jammed together. I wanted... paradox.
Relief was built with a tube of thick white paint, mostly right out of the tube, then dabbed at with a stick, pulling the thick paint into sawtooth mountain ranges, which I wanted not just for scenery but to block rain on many coasts. Waited a day and then started painting colors--mostly hot ones. Red & orange deserts rimmed by golden savannas... just narrow green shores framing endless outbacks.
I photographed the globe against black-painted cardboard, and added a little atmospheric haze on the horizons, using GIMP, a free (open source) graphics program. I'm amazed people still write to ask me what software creates my planets, after all these years and all these globes, so I'd better repeat: there is no fractal generator, no spherical renderer, no software. It's a physical globe just a foot tall. Think of it as a planetary Barbie doll. The same scale.
Here, I'll prove it--
Kakalea's unusual for me in that the globe came first, before I charted or calculated a thing, and the initial mapping was based on that globe. Usually it's the reverse. But even on Kakalea, I think the key to understanding the plausibility and detail of the model (if any) still isn't the globe, it's the cartography--it's where I calculate and think things out. That's true for ALL my worlds. So...
For the first time in building a world-model, I thought to save enough steps in my mapping process to create a short animation showing my picture of Kakalea evolving from first sketch page to the final world map. For the moment you have to click on the sketch below to start it. It's under 2 minutes; 6.7Mb. Eventually, I'll set these 455 frames to loop as an animated GIF or embedded video, but so far my attempts have been too big/too slow, or else they don't work on all browsers.
You'll notice that about 30 seconds in, and again near 45 seconds, I seem to start all over from scratch, with a clean map-grid. It's true! The early phases were more about LEARNING the planet's cartography in detail, building a clear, consistent MENTAL map--I knew those early sketches weren't worth cleaning up.
But the second half of the animation is all a single detailed 16-color GIF that I refined and corrected over and over as I learned more about local details.
These animation-frames are NOT full-size. My real master worldmap is 3840 x 2160 pixels--SIXTEEN TIMES the area you see! I need the master map that big and detailed--I use it to bud off the regional maps for each tour (except way out at the edges where regions get distorted or sliced in two. For tours of Kera, Iba and end-of-the-world archipelagoes, I had to remap by hand.)
What this mean is: modest changes from frame to frame--say, an area the size of your thumbnail--reflect the construction (or rethinking, or RE-rethinking) of a whole regional tour--a day's work, or a week.
Worlds, even simple barren worlds, are big.
The ground-level scenes of pure landscape are a mixture of media. A few are pencil sketches I scanned then shaded & tinted in GIMP, the open source graphics program (since NOT ONE of the three versions of Photoshop I own will run on my new computer--and Adobe no longer sells it, only leases it! Adobe has abandoned the artists it once fostered. I won't go back. GIMP's name says it all, but despite its clumsy features, it does run and gets the job done.)
NW Ata: skull, sand
fall, Rikani Is.
skull & tibia
I've begun adding a few landscape sketches in pastel/crayon, ink, watercolor, gouache and acrylic paint.
Palm canyon, Grakse Pen: Watercolor
Ara: desert sunset: crayon
south Fika: islands: acrylic
karst crags of Liarote: watercolor/digital
"oaks" on Siba: thick acrylic
foggy ridges, Orak: gouache
'mangroves' of Liufai: ink brushwork
Much of the newest landscape work is sketched directly on screen with a pen & tablet (a Wacom Bamboo--even their cheapest is quite nice). These are in chronological order, from experiments when I'd just switched to GIMP, to more controlled as I learned...
Iba: flowering trees
Ara: Chass Mts
Bima: desert crags
Tasa: the cliffs of Spine
Loiba Islands sunset
Artaho Is.: Felak
Fika: Slot River canyon
Sia: Cape Astonishment
Sia: ice wall
Great Tasa: Sun Coast
The Kakalean natives, as I've described on the Peoples and Creatures page, are all Barbies cut and glued together into centauroids--thick acrylic paint hides the sutures. I posed them in dioramas around my house, with found props to add that Kakalean whiff of klunkiness. The Planet that Doesn't Quite...
It's an interesting dance, being almighty Plod, the Subtly Inept. So I'll reveal more than is proper, spoiling my own effects. It's Plod's way. As the bumpersticker says, "What would Plod do?" Too much. So behold my...
Recipe for Centaur Creation
(requires 6 days labor (rest on 7th), 2 Barbies, tiny saw, drill, a nail, glue, paint; no Eden or spareribs required)
- Find two Barbies with similar hair-color, both deserving to die. If you thought "that would be all Barbies", you are cynical, but may proceed with the recipe.
- Lift up the Barbie with more character in her face unto your right hand, and spare her. For now.
- Grasp the Barbie with the blander smile in your left hand. Saw her in two, cutting along her collarbone.
- Cast her sappy head and arms into the outer darkness. All you care about is below the neck. You are apparently that sort of deity.
- Glue these loser hindquarters onto the better Barbie's butt.
- Fish the severed head up from the outer darkness. Oops. Next time cast into limbo--easier recall. Snip off falls of hair, and glue them on a bendable wire or nail in successive waves till you've built a tail.
- Drill a hole in the hind-butt but only when other gods won't see, because it looks too kinky. Insert the tail. Ditto.
- Smooth the junction between fore and hind-torsos. You may have to file ragged edges. Think of this as tough love. Caulk the cracks. Let dry.
- Dab thick paint to create spiky fur. Scrape with comb or pins for finer texture. Let dry.
- Paint colors--fur pattern, bare skin, lips, eyes. Let dry.
- Touch gloss on the eyes, lips, nails and elsewhere if she's all excited, or you are. Let dry... et voilà! One Barbietaur.
For example, here's the frankensteining of Fuchsia, a flower-tattooed dancer-explorer you've seen sailing up jungle rivers and seducing the sun in metaphysical musicals.
TRIGGER WARNING! if you're about to undergo colonoscopy, skip #4. If you're not, skip #4 anyway. You'll never trust a power drill again.
But I cannot tell a lie: the Barbie figures weren't made for Kakalea. They began as a separate art project, The Cendancers--a whole dance troupe of centauroid Barbies. It was shown, with no references to Kakalea at San Francisco's annual Altered Barbie Exhibition in fall 2013. But I was already thinking of giving them a planet. Kakalea, the world gone pleasantly wrong, seemed a perfect fit.
Since I am Plod, the very file-clerk of Creators, of course there's a Chart Of All The Barbies.
Aifelle in The Coming Dark
Archa in Diamonds
Ariel in Coral Dream
Bergia in Rain is Skygrass
Dlana in Snuggle Up
Filia in Kelp Gets Me Wet
Flora in I Dreamed I Built Mtns
Frizia in Tundra
Fuchsia's I Made the Sun Come
Kentaur in Red Hot Desert
Lia in Morla's...
Lina in Stride On!
Lotora in Ruby Heart
Nila in Too Many...
Proni in Mirror
Riraa in furs
Shya in Summer Heat
Sidera's Hidden Succulence
Spira in Microgravities
Storia in The Mail from Tasa, Probably
Suplica in Balance of Dark & Light
Zara in Rain, Fertilize Me
made of spare parts
This chart shows only the dancers appearing on Kakalea. There are a few more. For a portfolio of the whole dance troupe with more pictures, see The Cendancers; for a complete photosets see the Art Gallery under each dancer's name.
Why Barbie? Why centaurs? Why dancers?
To let Barbie stand on her own. As a rolemodel or body image, Barbie's so footbound she's a pushover! Not just socially problematic--sculpturally, too. So I challenged myself to build a Barbie who CAN stand up for herself, in every sense. So I needed Barbies with more feet. Centaurs!
Why dancers? I took years of ballet, jazz and modern dance before my joints got too sore (probably from Lyme, not dance). Dance is a strange art, fusing sexuality, emotional expression and intellectual artifice, from the earthiest feelings to the most spiritual--in the same piece, occasionally in the same moment. I wanted to dance again, and choreograph my own pieces, and this was a way to do it.
Spira in Microgravities
Sidera in I Made the Sun Come
Bergia in Mount me Outdoors
The Seven Pillars of Cendancers
Archa of Cheirin in Dyeing for Freedom as staged on Tiao
Ken in Red Hot Desert
Fusing a real & bogus Ken to make a male centaur took drastic surgery, design compromise and TWC (no, not Tender Wuvving Care. Tedious Weenie Construction.)
Fuchsia in Floral Dream
Suplica in The Balance of Dark and Light
The Cendancers are my testimony that femme is just as brave and funny and hot.
Ah, but what to do with the extra head and arms? They build up, you see. And plastic is forever. We must recycle! And so...
Octana, an amphibious girl from the Biarati Is.
Pelva, a soccer fiend on the Isle of Ksurbai
Trifida, a handy girl from Thathai
Tenta, a slippery girl from Leira
Tiara, Queen (and apparently King) of Uups
Bulba from the Isle of 'A'o
For these Chimera Barbies, I had to figure out how and where they'd evolve (isolated archipelagoes like our Galapagos, mostly). I ended up with half a dozen islanda in four widely separated regions--each an authentic Island of Misfit Toys.
But for the centaurs, it was simple. Wherever they evolved doesn't matter. They spread by boat to settle the whole world. The only adaptation I had to make from Barbie art to Kakalea was the idea of giving their troupe a catamaran and letting them sail round the world, dancing wherever they went...
And why not? Pavlova did that a century ago. Really. The first worldwide superstar wasn't a movie actor or a singer, but a dancer. The universal art.
Most of the dioramas and stage-sets the Barbietaurs pose in use one-of-a-kind fabrics (from shibori & tie-dye to op art to full-on quilts) made by my friend Joy-Lily. She teaches workshops in the techniques you see.
Nila in I Married Too Many Rainbows, Resinwood Bay; op-art by Joy-Lily
Shya in Rose of the Quilted Plain in Orra Bay; quilt by Joy-Lily
Just notes for myself! What's still to be done?
A parting shot. Just to prove they aren't just furry fetish sculptures fiendishly employed to further the Marriage of Art and Science... they really are Barbies too.
O ye Doubters! Trust in thy Plod.
Kakalea basics--map--geology-- creatures-- Building Kakalea
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