Wednesday, March 18, 2015

She Photographs Very Well

Just completed Main Character Rana's full wardrobe for the film series. Yay. Above is what she wears during the day whilst working in the garden, etc. I think she photographed very beautifully today on the macro close-up garden set. I love her completely.
Her outfit consist of a vintage ivory muslin nightgown with hand-embroidered embellishments on the front and antique hand-made spider web-like laces (provided by the wonderful friend and supporter Corey Amaro) at its hem and cuffs. Rana's nightgown was cut down from a full size piece that the late Constance gave to the production. I made it loose for her to sleep in and added vintage shell buttons to the front and the back. All of its edges are wired for animating and the laces have been made rigid with matte medium for greater movement control.

Rana will wear the bare nightgown during the night sequences inside the cottage as she's seen going to bed in candlelight as the knitting beetles (which are DONE by the way...) at her bedside making soft clacking noises.

During the day, she wears a rose pink tunic over the nightgown with an extraordinary handmade lace front piece and triple decker vintage lace edging at the hem with matching edge at cuffs (below upper left). Over the pink tunic she wears a set of three layers of skirts, the top of which I wove from hand-dyed wools for THIS precise purpose at the beginning of the production. (seen below lower left). On top of all five skirts is a hearty French-linen apron finished with handy pockets and leather straps (an unplanned detail that has become one of my favorite parts.)

The writing mouse tags along with her in a pocket (below lower left) or in the apron front watching and taking notes for the journals. I love how they kiss (two above lower right). And now we can all, after 20 years, realize at last how Rana looks while actually kneeling to coax him to her, two above lower left.

Her necklace is made from precious seeds and crackled pods, bits of bone and antler, and even has a finely woven piece of cobweb lace caught between its strands, below, lower right.

Costume Changes: Once I dressed her, I saw that the apron needed to be shortened to show the other skirt edges underneath (the altered version can be seen in the top photo group). Every edge of every opening on every hand-sewn garment in this outfit has wire embedded to help position the fabric. Her hat now has Autumn leaves added to the crown, opposite the Springtime bee and blossom. (The exciting reason for that was discovered today (!) and will be explained in my next post.) Even though the hat was "finished" a long time ago, after seeing it on the finished costumed puppet's head necessitated that it be made broader, which I did today. I stiffened a fine jute open weave material with... matte medium (my most essential product) and proceeded to extend the brim out another inch via needle and thread. Made all the difference, now the proportions are correct.

Rana wears her apron while she is working inside or outside the house but will remove it and wear a traveling cloak during the troop's long trek away from the cottage to see the Sage toward the end of the story.

So the wardrobe for her breaks down like this:

In Four Akts
Day: (Cottage Interior) Rose pink tunic and skirting set over nightgown with apron on top, kerchief in hair.
Dusk: (Cottage Exterior) Same as above, replacing a straw sun hat instead of kerchief.
Dark: (Cottage Interior) Bare nightgown with hair down.
Dawn: (Desert Exterior) All clothing as described above, with the addition of a heavy, hooded traveling cloak, hair pulled back into a chignon.

If there's any aspect of Rana's costume that I haven't shown that you'd care to see, or to see something in greater detail, please just let me know! And thank you so much for coming along for this ride!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

John Ikuma's Stop Motion Underground!

This is going to be a great post, thanks to John Ikuma. It's got everything; video YT content creator action, delicious show and tell reveals, dramatic suspenseful set-ups, and kaapow payoffs below. A Link Laden Lollapalooza...

The amazing and generous, writer/editor/animator, John Ikuma, dropped a new episode of Stop Motion Magazine's web series, In The Shadows of Light today!! I was stunned. He gave an entire episode to Halfland! Wildly fantastic to have! How great is it to see where things were 4.5 years ago and to know what's happened since he came to meet me at the loft, in September of 2010, to shoot some footage for his ambitious feature on LA's underground Stop Motion renaissance.

The day John came by and shot was the first time anyone had thought enough of what I was doing to give it a showcase like that. (I *think* I may have Tennessee Reed Norton to thank for tipping John off about 1/2L? If so, T. Reed, Thank you!) And after shooting that day, John said that what I was doing would be "worth a documentary all on its own" which was the first time anyone in the field had regarded the project as anything remarkable. His saying that was like a bomb going off in my being. It meant so much, especially at that time, and started me thinking more of what I was doing myself. It may have been one of the first moments in time that I began to have confidence in my abilities and ideas.

So, you see, it was a big deal here. And seeing the recording this much later for the first time I was amazed at how much of what I hold dear in terms of the project's philosophy and approach was worked out. I keep thinking of the points raised in John's film as 'brand new' thoughts all the time. Things like allegory, folktale, computers as personal creative tools, all being done within the means available, without concern for doing things correctly, etc.

And here, for those who may be interested, are how a few of the things discussed in the film were ultimately realized since then and a few of the people that came up as well:::

Nelson Lowry who taught me how to build molds and cast puppets and who encouraged me as Halfland was just beginning to be thought of.  He's now a very big deal in the Stop Motion world and lending his talents as Supervising Production Designer for LAIKA in Portland. Thank you for being my friend when I most needed it, Nelson.

Julie Taymor is the Great Artist who no less than saved my life with her creativity being showcased on the New York Times magazine's cover in 1992. I asked her, "Where can I go to learn to do what you do." She handed the phone to Micheal.  She gave me myself by demonstrating how to be oneself.

Michael Curry who was, in 1993, Julie's invaluable Technical and Creative Co-Director and an enormous influence and encouragement to me personally. (You may have been wowed by Michael's work for years without necessarily realizing it was his genius at work. Most recently the giant roaring lion Katy Perry rode at the big game's halftime (heh) show was recognizably his mastery at work. I knew it instantly!) Michael is the important person who invited me to "make my own project." after he'd relented to my constant pleads and allowed me inside my first-ever workshop for theatrical production (Oedipus) and unleashed the entire creative universe before my eyes. If it wasn't for Micheal and Julie, goodness knows how my life might have gone. Thank you, Michael.

More of Nick Hilligoss' fabulous stop motion puppetry work.

Dick Kaneshiro did come over and soldier the bug party lantern lights! And has his Lunch Box and monitor for shooting the film on loan here! Thank you, Dick!

Mariah, one of the pretty little girls who want to help in Halfland.

Peggy Fussell actually making those 7-foot cardboard trees.

How the Mothman silk and wire wings mentioned were actually finished! Beautiful!

Those fancy pants watch hands I talked about! And...

How they looked on the Time Frog's eye when they were finished!

What the paper clockwork gears look like up close with a few time flies, raw and then through the transparent frog belly.

How the main cottage porch shown was completed with the help of an architect!!
What the main set's interior looks like:

See what new bugs have RSVPzzzzzzd to the Bug Party since filming and how the finished party set looks close up including the band! Plus Lots more bug pupps. I LOVE making them.

Above you can see how the paper teacups for the bug cafe were constructed.

The entire project was moved nearly three years ago (!) into a more normal-sized apartment. It's been an adjustment and took a long time to re-jigger into, make new plans for how to handle the opening and closing shots, etc. I had to destroy a lot of the previous set pieces and sky in order to move due to the reduction in space and I became ill for nearly two years afterward, but by God, it is reborn and so am I. Thank you, God, I am well.

Halfland volunteer, artist Christine Kuper, helped me build the new sky in Halflnd's new (much smaller) workspace. She also helped me paint the night sky landscape onto half of the new paper backdrop once it was all finished. (She hasn't been by lately though.... She and Mano had their long-awaited first child just one year ago!! Praise be!)

The larger mouse puppet and his set has been completely finished. And the small version of him, with the teensy pair of glasses, can be seen lower right.

The main character of the series, Rana the Goat Woman puppet has been built with the technique described in the film except now I use an elastic glue as the medium for the mache instead of latex. and her costume is being IS now finished over the next two days. It's a wow. Can't wait to show you.
Ready to begin shooting... Am now a subscriber to Adobe's Creative Cloud and therefore have the latest versions of After Effects and Premiere---Let's go! Thank you, John! xoxoooxoxo

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rana Photoshoot: Soup Tasting

A spoon carving prompted a preliminary camera test of Rana. I like how cinematic she looks. There's more surface texture on her face than I intended but it may be alright as it makes the whole movie looks for sure 'handmade' and slightly less in the creepy canyon.

She was harder to articulate than I had hoped she'd be. But I'm going with it. Pencils Down. Even if that means she can do less. I am thinking she'll be interesting to look at enough even if hardly moving.

Ended up using the spoon I'd made for her soup pot years ago as it seems I've lost the ability to carve a nice spoon. The new one is now in the prop soup (lower right). The new soup is super effective thanks to the gift Mike Brent gave the project of a jar of Museum Gel. I layered soup bits in about four layers of rolled out gel. The gel flattens itself out to a high gloss after about an hour or so and will nevah dry out. I tinted it by mixing ink into clear glue and using that as the penultimate layer.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Great "Motif":: Presenting the Finished Painting Chicken Puppet: by Guest Artist Deborah George

Clawing back from too long an absence to tell you that back in the summer I was delighted to receive another visit from artist and art instructor, Deborah George. She was triumphant over the task from the year prior I'd given her to produce the Painting Chicken puppet for the series.

It took her a year's worth of very hard work to construct. Apparently, placing each tiny natural feather by hand was a sisyphean nightmare to do, with lots of glue maddeningly sticking to fingers and tools.
But did it she did! And a better person I could not have chosen for this as Deborah is an avid avian expert, keeping Conure variety of birds as beloved pets for many years. She was even able to raid her own birds for molted feathers and hand ink them when her stock piles needed filling-in on Motif's fantastic duff.

The concept was a black and white chicken with a few outlined feathers colored-in. Deborah did an outstanding job and added the touches of specs and an artist's beret for his comb. She rigged the wings to curve around a palette and to hold his paintbrush for Motif's limited animation movements. He will be tied down to the set with wire and strong glue. His head swivels nicely.

When here, she also made his finishing props for the scene, a pod with pigments and extra mixing brushes, paints (obviously made with egg yolk binder) that sit across the bottoom of an easel holding hand stretch miniature canvas.

She also skillfully sketched the 1/2L landscape from the Chicken Painter's pov with its underpainting. He'll be seen painting plein air near the cottage for just a few moments as the camera features surprising vignettes of creatures doing interesting things. Well done, Deborah and thank you so much.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Constance Has Passed

Long time readers of the blog will remember one of Halfland's lovely volunteers Constance. She came over regularly for many months, largely building the most difficult forest sets of the project.

She labored hard with me to make the wonderful bamboo grove set for the mothman, erecting the large white cardboard 2D foreground forest from the trees drawn by Peggy, and helped me get the birch tree forest to stand, among other things. She was focused, hardworking, artistic, refined, sophisticated. A New Yorker, in other words, having transplanted herself to California about 15 years ago.

Constance always had a vision of women helping each other with large creative projects as a means to connect and share strengths, like old fashioned quilting bees. I think that's what brought her over to Halfland a lot, that there was a certain momentum of gathering taking place at the loft every Friday where she could gather in a creative circle and work happily towards something together.

But she came more than that, at least twice a week for a time. She came for the hard stuff. She came to do the bullwerk of difficult physical tasks. We had the satisfaction together of completing these and admiring how they looked. She helped make the moon. She made an exquisite butterfly, a work of art, one of the few things made by someone else I'm excited to feature in the film. She roughed in the mouse's house interior, pushing down that inertia for me so I could make it. Thank you for all your help, Constance.

After my move to this smaller place, during my own long walk back to health, Constance would check in on how things were going. I did the same around Easter. She said that she'd been dealing with some inexplicable weakness and permitted me to bring over some food she felt might be good.

Paul and I stopped by her home with the goods and were stunned by her appearance. She was skeletal. All we could say after not having seen her for months was, "What's going on??!?" She didn't know. Her husband rushed to to the ER later that very night in distress, her dam of pain finally burst. And so began weeks of the waning of her physical life, that culminated last month.

There was tremendous support of all kinds for she and Richard from that day on. With much organizing help by her friend Paula, friends, ministers, and relatives were able to keep a near constant watch over Constance. We all took our coordinated turn taking her for appointments, treatments, and later, when it seemed best, just to come and sit waiting for her passing.

In a way it was a shocking horror show of an experience. I could not get my head around how a human body could survive such profound loss of all its lovely flesh. How could she walk and speak when tumors were invading places within her that must have confused all internal function. How difficult for her mate to watch and to endure such an ordeal. And yet, he did much more than survive it. He triumphed over it all with love, rising to her every need with strength and purpose. He would give her everything he could until this path was fully walked.

There was Constance. Still refined, and funny, and philosophical about it all. Needing Richard. For herself she wished for a 'clean get away', to be clear and complete inside herself and with everyone she'd be leaving behind. She took the High Road out from my point of view, demonstrating the noblest of perspectives during these declining months.

On my last visit she would forget to take a breath every so often. I'd remind her and she'd come alive with a gasp and expressively whisper, "Thank you!" Even then, some lucid aspect of her consciousness would ask out loud, "How do I get out of this?" Without obvious alternative, only a suggestion to follow the Light sounded hopeful.

If there is, as I believe, some sort of continuation after this physical experience, then I'm sure Constance's Soul is having fun somewhere, making silly puns with wordplay, and creating wondrous things. Maybe, if she wants to, building forests of the lasting kind.

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