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Thumbnail photo of Kakalea, an unlucky Earthlike world: blue seas, red dry continents. Click to enlarge. Thumbnail photo of Kakalea, an unlucky Earthlike world: blue seas, red dry continents. Click to enlarge.

How I Built Kakalea

by Chris Wayan, 2015
for your inner geek

Kakalea basics--map--geology-- creatures-- Building Kakalea
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.

Confessions of a Back-Engineer - Globe - Mapping - Scenery - Figures - Sets - To Do

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.

Sketchmap of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias.
Confessions - The Globe - Mapping - Scenery - Figures - Sets - To Do

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--

Globe of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias, with attendant centaurs showing scale. Click to enlarge.

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...

Confessions - The Globe - Cartography - Scenery - Figures - Sets - To Do

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.

Animated GIF map of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias, from initial sketch to finished world map, in about 450 frames.

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.

Confessions - The Globe - Mapping - Scenery - Figures - Sets - To Do

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

Tetek Crater

lizard, pinecone

fall, Rikani Is.

skull & tibia

vertebra, sand

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

catamaran

Tua: sphinxes

Bima: desert crags

Tasa: the cliffs of Spine

Loiba Islands sunset
Last type: a set of landscapes based on watercolors by Edward Lear about 150 years ago, which I altered and used on a previous world, Pegasia. I further altered several dozen (for example, turned a sketch of Dover into an antarctic ice-wall) and added Kakalean centaurs. Examples:

Artaho Is.: Felak

Fika: Slot River canyon

Sia: Cape Astonishment

Sia: ice wall

Sia: sunset

Great Tasa: Sun Coast
But much of the scenery you'll see is in dioramas--photos mimicking stage-sets of wood, cloth, cut paper, found objects, and dolls representing the native Kakaleans...

Confessions - Globe - Mapping - Scenery - Figures: The Cendancers - Sets - To Do

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)
  1. 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.
  2. Lift up the Barbie with more character in her face unto your right hand, and spare her. For now.
  3. Grasp the Barbie with the blander smile in your left hand. Saw her in two, cutting along her collarbone.
  4. 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.
  5. Glue these loser hindquarters onto the better Barbie's butt.
  6. 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.
  7. Drill a hole in the hind-butt but only when other gods won't see, because it looks too kinky. Insert the tail. Ditto.
  8. 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.
  9. Dab thick paint to create spiky fur. Scrape with comb or pins for finer texture. Let dry.
  10. Paint colors--fur pattern, bare skin, lips, eyes. Let dry.
  11. 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.


The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge The sculpting of Fuchsia, a centauroid dancer, out of two Barbies; by Chris Wayan. Click to enlarge

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.

Centaur 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

Chimera Barbies


made of spare parts

Bulba

Octana

Pelva

Tenta

Tiara

Trifida

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, a centauroid dancer. Click to enlarge.
Spira in Microgravities

Sidera in I Made the Sun Come

Bergia in Mount me Outdoors

The Seven Pillars of Cendancers
Archa, a centauroid dancer with fur dyed in harlequin diamonds; a native of Kakalea, a dry earthlike world. Sculpted from two Barbies by Wayan. Click to enlarge.
Archa of Cheirin in Dyeing for Freedom as staged on Tiao

  1. A cendancer stands free. No need for wires, stands or other props.
  2. A cendancer has a unique pose and gesture. They're active dancers caught in motion.
  3. A cendancer has a unique color/pattern. Many are rather equine, but you'll see Raccoon Barbie, Zebra Barbie, Poodle Barbie...
  4. A cendancer expresses a distinct mood; try to get beyond that generic Barbie smile
  5. A cendancer is sexy. Barbie, meant to be sold to kids, hid her fetish origins (her designer, Ruth Handler, was inspired by Lili, a sultry German fetish doll; early Barbies have Lili-like sly, sidelong glances. Very seductive. See the film Barbie Nation) Cendancers are as openly sexual as Lili. But never ONLY sexual; they're true dancers; sex is integrated into their life and art, and not taboo. Innocently erotic.
  6. Cendancer anatomy is diverse--as long as it's broadly centaurian. Digitigrade (horse, cat) vs. plantigrade (human, elephants), breast arrangement (0-8), faces (various animal-human mixes), ears, tails...
  7. A cendancer must be posable in SEVERAL stable orientations plausible as dance moves. Some may be wall poses using support, some may be floor work, but at least one should be freestanding, as per goal #1.

Barbie Biases

  1. Most Barbies smile; it's one reason I built a dance-troupe, not a therapy group or riot squad. To make Screaming Barbie, Sobbing Barbie, Whistling Barbie or Puking Barbie I'd have to sculpt the heads from scratch. Hard work! But then, what's wrong with happiness?
  2. Barbie plastic is tough. Drilling and sawing's not easy. Every centaur ended up--not by intention, I assure you--with at least a smidgen of my blood in her. Every single one. So I didn't do dare plan anything too drastic or freeform for the dolls. Really. No matter how they look.
  3. The Ken shortage. I never found a single used Ken here in San Franciscos's thrift stores! I assume gay fetish sculptors snapped them up. The troupe's lone "Kentaur" contains one Ken a friend gave me, fused with a broken, musclebound Ken knockoff (non-Mattel) from a Misson flea market.


    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.)

  4. Most dolls I used were older, since they came from thrift shops, yard sales and friends. I did buy a handful new--mostly Latina Barbies, who had good hipjoints and a strong swayback that's ideal for the bend inherent in centaur anatomy, and for the raised tail that's a sure sign of centaurian sexual excitement. Because the dolls ranged so widely in age (from 1 to over 50 years--one was from 1967!) their anatomies varied shockingly. New Barbies are admittedly thin and leggy, but they're way less anatomically grotesque than older Barbies with wasp waists but quarterback shoulders and nose-cone boobs. Despite Barbie's reputation for promoting unrealistic body images, they've made slow progress--roughly reflecting the society that buys them.

  5. Barbie hair won't readily tint, so I matched colors of head and tail as closely as I could--not easy! Fuchsia, right, was inspired by a doll with magenta hair so long I could use it for both head and tail--no matching, no dye jobs. Fuchsia's only dancer I thought to photograph through all her stages of construction.
  6. Fusing two Barbies into one centaur left spare heads, shoulders and arms. I cut off the hair from the uglier Barbie head (surprising variety here, from full of character to hideously insipid) and used it for tail-hair. That plethora of hair unconsciously biased me toward horse- and fox-tails; without that supply maybe I'd have tried more round cat tails, poofy rabbit tails, spiky dragon tails.

    Oh, well!


Table covered with figurines by Wayan: the All Barbie Centaur Dance Ensemble.
The All-Barbie Centaur Dance Ensemble, or ABCDE

Personal Biases

  1. I favored modern dance over ballet--I hate formality, stiffness, impersonal prettiness.
    Suplica, a centaurid dancer with zebra stripes, made of two Barbies by Wayan. Click to enlarge.
    Suplica in The Balance of Dark and Light
  2. I favored asymmetry and unusual weight distribution. Occasionally I did sacrifice the former to the latter, as in Suplica, an experiment in cantilevering; symmetricality made floating that zebra easier.
  3. I favored poses that seemed sexually inviting. I wanted to make them erotic fantasies as explicit as Lili, the Weimar German inspiration for Barbie.
  4. I favored females. I like girls not boys. Yes, there's a used Ken shortage, but I could have looked harder for new Kens for sale if I'd been motivated. Besides, lots of queer fetish art uses Ken better than Barbie--there's a deep, persistent bias across the whole American sexual spectrum, believing butch is innately more outrageous, braver, healthier, more cutting edge--not just in art, in life.

    The Cendancers are my testimony that femme is just as brave and funny and hot.

  5. I favored mammals because I'm lazy and let Barbie sway me. I should do a Dragon Barbie, but that luxuriant Barbie hair just seems her trademark, so I went with more of it... as in all over... And Falcon Barbie or Fairy-Tern Barbie, sexy though they'd be, posed practical and legal factors. A birdwatching friend did donate a lot of shed feathers she'd found over the years, but without proof the source didn't involve harming any birds, a sculpture using them would be ethically dicey and legally unsellable. If I can find an easy way to create vinyl feathers--I'm looking at old Venetian blinds now--I may do an avian Barbie or two.

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...

Sculpture titled 'Octana', made of glued-together Barbie parts; an octopoid native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Octana, an amphibious girl from the Biarati Is.
Sculpture titled 'Pelva' made of glued-together Barbie parts; a handless native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Pelva, a soccer fiend on the Isle of Ksurbai
Sculpture titled 'Trifida' made of glued-together Barbie parts; a small tripedal native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Trifida, a handy girl from Thathai
Sculpture titled 'Tenta' made of glued-together Barbie parts; an amphibian native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Tenta, a slippery girl from Leira
Sculpture titled 'Tiara', made of glued-together spare Barbie parts; a goat-sized hermaphroditic native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
Tiara, Queen (and apparently King) of Uups
Sculpture titled 'Bulba' made of spare Barbie parts; a dwarfed hermaphroditic native of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias. Click to enlarge
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.

Catamaran crewed by centaurs sails past green islands on Kakalea, a world-model with mostly dry continents.
Confessions - Globe - Mapping - Scenery - Figures - Sets - To Do

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, a centauroid dancer on a rainbow stage in Shirafia, western Ata, a continent on Kakalea, a model of a rather dry world. Click to enlarge
Nila in I Married Too Many Rainbows, Resinwood Bay; op-art by Joy-Lily
Shya, a centaur with leopard-rosettes, before quilted mountains; east Ara, on Kakalea, a dryish Earthlike world. Click to enlarge
Shya in Rose of the Quilted Plain in Orra Bay; quilt by Joy-Lily

Confessions - Globe - Mapping - Scenery - Figures - Sets - To-Do List

Just notes for myself! What's still to be done?

Mattel trademark still visible on back of a Kakalean native--a centaur made of fused Barbies. Click to enlarge.
"Mattel" stamped on the back of Storia of Kuri, a Kakalean centaur

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.

Map of Kakalea, a model of an Earthlike world full of Australias.

Kakalea basics--map--geology-- creatures-- Building Kakalea


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