Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July special

Take a moment to listen to The Star Spangled Banner. Seriously, do it. It is possibly the most American thing there is (after the Pledge of Allegiance... and Apple Pie... and Baseball... you get the idea)
The song was written during the War of 1812, and didn’t become the National Anthem until 1931.

For the Fourth of July (possibly the most American holiday… after Thanksgiving... ok, I’ll stop) I wanted to do something with the song in my avatar, for all those sites I comment on. So I decided to dress him as a US soldier during the War of 1812.

Initially I thought I’d just dress him as a Union soldier during the Civil War, but it turns out the Union uniform changed between 1812 and 1862. I flipped through the Wikipedia articles related to the War of 1812, but it seemed hopeless, as all the images were in black and white. I soon tired of this and went to Google. I found the marvelous image on the left through the Google image search (query “War of 1812 -Russia”; I didn’t want Napoleon’s war of 1812!)

As the Wikipedia article on the Union uniform highlights, the US was heavily influenced by the French uniform in establishing the standards for their army (this is why the query was “-Russia” instead of  “-France”). I liked the idea of using a tailcoat (mainly because I didn’t need an excuse for where the mouse’s own tail came through) but I thought the hat was just asking for trouble. I tried drawing the flop-top hat traditionally associated with the civil war, but I just can’t draw that, not even when drawing it by hand. Fortunately, the Wikipedia article said that the standard issue hat was flat-topped; meaning I could simply use a cylinder for it.

The hat and the collar traditionally have the division and unit number of the soldier (4th infantry, 5th navy, etc) but I didn’t want any real-life army men to point at the drawing and say “Hey, that’s my number!” so I just put “U.S.” instead. I made the uniform short-sleeved mainly because with long sleeves you couldn’t tell it was a mouse (it looked like a human with a weird face).

The real challenge came in drawing the gun. With the exception of a six-shooter, I suck at drawing guns. I started with positioning the hands, because I didn’t want it to look like I had stretched the arms to fit the gun; I wanted the gun to be stretched fit between the hands! The position still had to be credible, though, for a soldier walking with his gun, so I “drew” both arms (even though I knew the left arm wouldn’t be visible; the left side is shown at the right here so you can see what I mean – I basically flipped the elements in the computer, so I apologize if the perspective of the gun is a bit skewed). To be sure the arms would still be the same length, I took the arms I had already drawn and rotated them into position. I had to redraw the hands, of course, but knowing where they were was a big help. The result was something that looks so natural, I actually have trouble remembering how I made it!

I removed the shading mainly to avoid the temptation of drawing “the rocket’s red glare”. The flag in the background  is the one used by Lyndon Johnson’s wife when she dedicated Fort Smith a National Historic Site in 1964; mainly because it was the only one I could find placed in such a way that my mouse could credibly be walking past it.

Well, that’s my “Fourth of July special.” Hope you liked it. Happy Fourth of July, America!


  1. Maybe your plan didn't work out for father's day, but it did for the Fourth. Now you can start making other holiday avatars...

  2. Yeah... sort of... I have two final exams and a homework assignment this week, and I'm thinking I won't be able to do the homework assignment. Even if I hadn't done the avatar, I just spent way too much time sleeping.

    But don't worry; summer vacation is comming up, and I plan to use it to do something special for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas ;)