The Siren Song of SHIPtember 2016 [Volume 3 of 4]

Matango! is in trouble, constant reader, the fight against the clock is not going well and the local Teamsters seem to be spending more time riding motorcycles and writing blog entries than actually building the ship.  Several issues should be readily apparent from the photo below, but I’ll go through them anyway, that’s the whole point of the exercise.


I kept the concept art in the photo for reference, but from this point on, the model will look less and less like it’s inspiration.  With days ticking past, I decided to abandon any notion of accuracy to the source material.  I wasted far too much time trying to figure out both the crew cabin and the nose, without any real success. I’m gonna take a second and complain about the shitty availability of parts in orange, but only a second because I think a more skilled builder could have figured out a better solution for both areas.  And…I should probably have figured that out ahead of time when I selected an all orange piece of concept-art.  So, ultimately I went the easy route and plugged in the 1-piece helicopter nose.  I dig it, I’ve always liked that window pattern but I admit that it’s a bit of a cop-out, a brick-built solution would have been ideal.  The biggest downside of the canopy is that it’s not as wide as I would have liked.  Simon is right, when he says the hard road is the better road through SHIPtember, but I need an easier route from this point forward, if I have any chance to make the end of the month deadline.

I flipped the cargo pods on their sides, to give the whole thing a slightly lower profile.  I’m still not completely happy with the look, but I’m not ready to redesign them either.  With so much left to do, and so little time to do it, going backwards would be a mistake.  I may switch them back to their original orientation, this is by no means final.  Nothing is.  In case you’re wondering, the legs are still in the game-plan but I didn’t want to crowd the update photo with them.  The legs are just waiting for a frame.

I included the SHIPruler in the photo so you can see how far off I am at this point.  The wings are going to push out further to the left and right but I’m not sure that they will get to 100 studs.  Front to back is even worse right now.  This is the two-headed tyranny of the calendar and the ruler.

All that said, the greater threat to Matango’s chance of completion is my growing apathy towards the project.  I’m not excited to look at it anymore, now it’s entered the realm of obligation or on especially bad days, a chore.  I’m frustrated with my inability to translate the subject matter and I don’t have a clear vision of where to go with the design.  I’m going to keep building until the end of the month and see what happens, and perhaps beyond the deadline if I still think it’s a concept worth developing.  I have one more BrickLink order on the way and that might re-energize me.  The bottom line is that the Manifesto is taking up more of my free time than I thought, and I just don’t have the time to write and build with the same level of investment.  Tune in for the exciting final volume in this SHIPtember series to see what happens!

Oh, and feel free to provide building suggestions in the comments.  Flickr has been zero help in that department, but it’s not just me, I don’t see a lot of good critique going on, just encouragement.  Encouragement is cool, and I’ve received my share and more on this project, but I get some really useless comments too.  When you boil it down, people generally have only 3 thoughts on Matango!

  1. That’s a lot of orange / you’re gonna need a lot more orange.
  2. That’s huge!
  3. The legs won’t support it.

None of those statements are particularly helpful or insightful, but at least they too the time to leave their thoughts?  Here’s a thought for you…


UPDATE:  Friend of the blog and crazy-good builder Pico van Grootveld was generous enough to work up a few sketches to help me find a way forward with Mantango!  His treatment of the legs is both daunting and delightful, and the little motorcycle is completely rad!  Thanks Pico!  I’m both flattered and grateful that you took the time to assist this less-than-humble SHIPwright in his time of need.

18 thoughts on “The Siren Song of SHIPtember 2016 [Volume 3 of 4]

  1. I like the cockpit, it blends in really neat. But so far it looks a lot like a building to me, looking forward to seeing how in the world you’re going to make a ship out of it. Other than that it’s flawless.

    Except for the stickers on the doors. Those suck.


    1. What stickers? The only sticker on the entire ship is the orange & white checkerboard pattern under the nose. I agree with you that it looks just as much like a building as a space-going vessel, but I think I’m ok with that, this thing was never going to be a beauty queen, this is a hard drinkin’ broad who’s worked outside in the sun her whole life. Thanks for the feedback.


  2. I can see your cause for concern. The availability of part colour and the general bulk needed to carry out the specs with 2 weeks on the clock…yikes.
    Just an idea, but what if you turned the concept on its head a bit and instead of trying for a bruiser, opt for the waif? The orange section you have now has a lot of visual weight. What about going backwards if you adopted a more skeletal / exposed structure and a smaller, balancing solid section in the rear? Orange and yellow easily lend themselves to a more utilitarian, ‘unskinned’ look to begin with. What if you went back from the existing section with an open frame in an more part friendly colour (dark Bgrey?) and clad parts of it with the orange to create the general footprint of the source material? You can still undersling the pods to the frame and whatever mechanism you’ve devised to affix them. It would reduce time required, need for rare parts and weight for the legs to support, perhaps giving you opportunities to add blossoms of detail amidst the support structure while still keeping the functionality of the pod bays.

    Does this make any sense? I often have trouble visualizing people’s suggestions.

    I do love that canopy usage, however. Often one of your hallmarks.


    1. Yeah, the lack of parts availability is on me though, I thought I had a lot of orange when I started but I should have known better. Preparation is key and I put myself behind the 8-ball from the selection process. I like your idea about adopting a more skeletal approach, it would extend the orange I have remaining and using a framework might provide a good direction to push forward. I’m not against using different colors, I thought I’d go for maximum orange and then scale things back later. My go-to color is gray so I was trying to avoid it initially, but to finish on time I will no doubt have to embrace it.

      Your plan makes sense Gil, I too have trouble visualizing suggestions, bu yours is pretty clear and I appreciate your attempt to give me a path to the finish line. I’m definitely going to explore the possibility.

      As for the canopy, I appreciate the props, but man I wish it was 2 studs wider, as many people have pointed out on Flickr, the standard helicopter nose looks too small for the rest of the SHIP. I wish I had all the time back that I spent working on a brick-built solution but that ain’t gonna happen.

      Cheers Gil! It’s always good to see you around the Manifesto.


  3. I agree with Absurde, it looks more like a building that your ship is flying to for docking.

    The cargo pods seem to be the sticky wicket for me. My initial instincts want to break down those pods to make them hollow. Make 3-4 of them and have that be the body of your ship. You get the length you need for specs. You could then make 2-4 legs that come down from either side between the new “cargo hulls”. Focus the orange on the top of the ship if you like. Though the way you have the orange now isn’t all that interesting. I think it actually could benefit from some grey or black to break it up in an creative way. Maybe throw some transparent neon in there. (You know I love me a transparent piece.) Not sure if this is helping now….
    If you like I could draw you a picture and mail it. Should get there by Wednesday. Plenty of time to rebuild before the deadline. Ha!


    1. Well, I did want this thing to be sort of ugly but a flying building is too far in that direction. I’m still unsure what the final shape of the hull will be, but I will endeavor to make it less building-like.

      I’m not sure I dig the idea of a central spine made out of the cargo pods (which are hollow btw), It’s been done to death by our fellow Lego nerds, and I think it would be too much of a departure from the original design. I agree with you guys that the orange is getting a little overwhelming and I’ll try to break it up with some gray. As for the translucent colors…that’s a tricky business, I’m not sure what color trans would look good with orange. I’ll have to think about that one.

      You could just take a picture of you stick-figure sketch and send it to me…

      Friend of the blog Pico V came up with some really cool sketches in like 60 seconds so I’m sure you’ve got time. What do you think of these?

      Ideas for Keith


      1. Trans-medium blue. It would look great with the orange and maybe some white highlights.

        I’m not a fan of the vertical design (I think that’s been done enough, same as the spine idea), but the other one looks pretty good. I really like the cockpit you have, but as others have said it’s a bit small and clashes a bit with the angular design of the rest of the ship. I’d round out the wings a little to compensate (maybe shaped around those scala dishes) and think of that cockpit as more of a “crow’s nest” and have the primary, larger crew cabin elsewhere.


      2. I think either one could work, I’ve just got to try and build my way out of my block and pick a direction at this point, especially if I’m gonna try for the deadline.

        I really like your idea about primary crew cabin being elsewhere, I’ll give that one some thought as to where to put it and how to suggest it (windows, whatever). Thanks!


      3. I like the new legs on his sketch. And the tail fin is okay, though a bit pedestrian. This does make me think that you should definitely keep the hulls. They are essential and interesting visually. We are in deep space for some time so my as well add a Starbucks.


  4. It reminds me of something from Dune. Not entirely a bad thing but not quite good. My eye loves more vertical notions; so if it is at all possible, go back to the more vertical containers. I agree with Amandroid about dark grey, with the orange it would look tits. Gil has some scary brilliant ideas as well. Aim for structure and pure utilitarianism (god, does that word suck to type, probably shouldn’t do it after four beers two glasses of wine and a finger of scotch. Lesson learned.) But more framework and visible structure might help delineate the purposeful sections from the stylized. It would be an advancement on the source material rather than an homage or faithful rendition. No rules saying that you have to be precise. 😉 I’m on the fence about the door stickers, I kinda agree with L’etranger but it kinda feels like they need something there. I’d say if anything, you should look into integrating engines and intakes, it might get you a bit more psyched up. Make them beefy, this is a damn workhorse.


    1. Ouch…Dune?…you cut me to the quick, good sir! I thought the big drawback of that movie was the vehicle designs…the ornathopter?…the mining rig that looked like it was made out of styrofoam?…the models seemed like kitbashing gone horribly wrong. You’re such a buzzkill, rountRee.

      I’m all for adding some dark grey to the orange, it was the plan all along, I was just focused on the orange first because of deadlines for Bricklinking and whatnot. I’m all about abandoning the source-art at this point, so it was gratifying to hear you agree with that assessment. I’m not sure whether or not I will be able to ‘advance’ the concept art but it will allow me a greater chance of finishing on time.

      I can’t believe you thought those were stickers on the door too…eagle eye rountRee missed one? If the tiles are offensive though, they are easy to remove / replace.

      Good advice on the engines/intakes, maybe I’ll put off the tough decisions a little longer and work on those. I would consider taking the rountRee course of action: one bourbon, one scotch, one beer, but I think that would result in the model being thrown against the nearest wall. I can’t hold my liqour like you…my blood doesn’t have the same natural alcohol content.

      Cheers man, thanks for the feedback!


  5. Sorry, Keith — here goes!

    I like the cockpit (and your terrific choice of orientation) a lot! But I don’t care for how the nice curvy windscreen (and rounded section behind the cockpit) look compared to the hard angles in front and and on the edges. I think I’d got back and bring in orange curved slopes throughout to get nice and curvy.

    I’m also not keen on the flatness of the top “wing” sections. It’s awesome that you’re at a point to ditch teh concept and go your own way, but I kind of dig how it has those facets that break up the top and lift up toward the rear.

    I forgot to post on your previous WIP, but I’m in love with your big chunky wheel sections. So, so kickass!

    Size-wise, you might consider just ignoring hte 100stud challenge if it doesn’t feel right. Screw it! I like that it has teh potential for sizing of a chunky cube, and the current width feels pretty nice — adding a lot to the sides might throw off feeling of balance.

    If you’re get tired of all the orange, or comments about how you’re going ot run out of orange, maybe you could take a repass and bring in big swaths of a another color, like white. Using white for greebly panel sections (surrounded by that orange, and some bley) might be unexpected and look terrific. Oh, and then you could drop in some pops of blue! So many colors. ;P

    I love that your design is so atypical for the long ships we usually see. (Did I mention how much I love that it has wheels?!!) I hope you can find the inspiration/fulfillment to keep noodling on it, end-of-month deadline or 100 stud goal be damned. Could be epic.



    1. I was concerned about the contrast between the hard angles of the ‘wings’ and the curves of the canopy so I appreciate your feedback on that one, I should probably choose on or the other. Mixing the two styles can look odd and I think that’s where I’m at right now….odd. I have plenty of curved slopes left over so I’ll probably do as you suggest and go back to swap out the standard slopes.

      The flatness of the wings is temporary, I’m not sure how to handle the top deck but Pico’s drawing has given me a few ideas, I’ll heed your advice though and try to give it more visual interest. I haven’t abandoned the source art entirely I’ve just abandoned the notion of accuracy as a goal.

      I will definitely ignore the 100 stud specification, since I’ve built several SHIPs in the past, hitting that mark doesn’t have the same importance that it one did, it’s more important to me to produce something interesting than hit a certain mark. I think you’re right, I’ve got to be careful with the length of the wings or it will throw off the balance. Good call!

      Using more white is a good call, I might lean in that direction if I can’t stretch my dwindling supply of citrus colored brick. I hadn’t considered the blue, but that’s interesting option as well. My white collection is hit or miss, the newer parts look good but a lot of my old stuff is yellowed. Food for thought!

      Thanks for the encouragement and suggestions Nick, you’re absolutely right that the focus should be on the ship and not the deadline.


  6. First, nice work on the angles at the end of the wings! I particularly like the piece usage for the turbine thingy.
    Also, like the others have said, I’m lov’in that canopy! It actually makes me think of a discussion at BW which I had with someone about such pieces (think BURPS, LURPS, etc), and essentially what he said and what we agreed on was that its no problem to use such pieces, but you need to be able to pull it off.
    And I can say that you’ve pulled off the canopy quite well.
    A+ on those cargo containers too!

    I’m a sucker for all things greebly/detailed, so I do have to say that I’m not too fond of the wings at the moment.
    They just seem under detailed and uninteresting to look at.
    I also think that you shouldn’t lengthen the wings anymore. They seem a bit too wide, if anything, I’d work on increasing the quality of the wings instead of the quantity.

    That being said though, this has some really good potential of being an exceptional MOC!
    Keep at it Keith.
    SHIPtember isn’t a kind mistress, but like Nick said, you shouldn’t limit yourself to a community’s rules for something like this.
    Take Sioka’s build for example! Its a 2 year build, but its a truly fantastic build at that.
    For instance, when I was building my District 9 dropship earlier this year, I wanted it to be a SHIP from the start.
    But as time went on, and the proportions were off due to the length of it not matching the width, Simon basically told me flat out that a dropship which isn’t a SHIP, but looks way cooler is a lot better than meeting up to a standard which is set by a community.
    And when I followed Simon’s advice, it looked a lot better (no question there)!

    Keep it coming though, I’m looking forward to what this progresses to be.



  7. Thanks Josiah, after living with it for a while and looking at all the feedback, I think I’ll keep the canopy. I agree with your criticism about the wings, in their current state they are unforgivably bland. I’m not sure I agree about the wings, if I’m going to reach the 100 stud mark, that’s my easiest route in the short amount of time I have left. to make it 100 studs the other direction would be a challenge, but I won’t completely rule it out. Everything is still on the table at this point.

    It seems like the Matango project is boiling down to one question: is it more important to finish the build within the rules and share the communal experience of SHIPtember with my fellow builders, or its it more important to produce the best possible model? I don’t have the answer to that yet.

    Thanks for the commetn and the encouragement!


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