Friday, September 29, 2006

If You Had Known


Tarn gets a surprise crack open, like an egg shell.

I kept walking past the Tarn (crow woman) sculpt and wishing that the human side was not as small in relation to the crow side. The crow side which was a pre-made, hollow rubber black crow decoration that you may recall was my clever way to get the bird part to feel and look right without the struggle of trying to start from nothing. But as I revised the female side to the way I liked it, the bird side was now not right. So, I cut it. Yep. Got the trusty blade out and sliced the whole rubber crow away. My plan is to re-sculpt the crow side to fit the human side better. This won't be as impossible as it would have been without the crow doll as a training sculpt. I can do this now on my own.

Which brings me to an obvious thought. If I had known in advance that creating one of many characters for Halfland would take so long, be such a back and forth process, be something that worked best to do a little at a time, sit with a while and then revise, etc. would I have embarked on this enchilada? If I had known that each aspect of what was a single flash of thrilling inspiration would turn into a 5' deep mud slog wearing a diving suit experience, would I even have entertained the thought of ever in my life making it? The sculpture, the mold-making, the casting of puppets, the dressing and finishing, the set building (so that it can be taken apart for shooting to make it even more complex), the story, the animating, the equipment and software choice, the learning curves, the editing, etc. Each aspect its own universe of unanticipated difficulty and effort.

I resent having to learn about house construction to build the cottage. I wish perfect custom steel armatures were $24.50 and that Phil Dale-QualityÂ? performance was magically automatically within me to do. I wish I had the latest editing software or even had a clue what I needed. (I'm waiting to see what shows up when I'm ready to edit as they keep inventing stuff while I work on this thing, you know, like the Internet for example! It was 1992-3, do the math--oops.) If I knew I'd still be invested so intensely in this project all these long years later, would I be able to enter into it in the first place?

All those complaints and a few more aside, even being at this beginning stage, looking down the barrel at the whole long rest of it, I would. I would, and suspect you would yours. I would because when a little advance happens and the realization of the project is a bit closer, it's a rush. And because when a small breakthrough in understanding happens there's nothing that compares to the thrill of it. And, over time, those small advances and understandings add up to something, the ability to do all those things that were unknown before I began.

Then there is the pleasure of the doing the art and craft of it. If I can back off from rushing, the process of sculpting, for example, is a contentment in and of itself. How about you, would you do it, if you knew?



The white sticky paper the precision laser cut quarries are arranged on is the size of the actual window panel. Saturday plans include hot gluing the leading to both sides and seeing how it moves in the light.

I had to cut a few pieces and leave a few pieces out to reshape the tiles to the panel size but it will work fine. I could NOT have done this without your kind gift, Mark. Thank you again!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why Would They Bake Their Children?!

NEW PRODUCT TIP: So you say you wanna build up an armature with something so light weight it'll float?...Sculpy Ultralight ran across this whilst surfing yesterday, thought you should know about it.

"Sculpey UltraLight is an extremely versatile clay that allows you to do things that could never be done before with clay. It turns hard as a rock when baked so it won't break or crack, even in large pieces. When rolled thin and baked, the clay remains flexible. When used as a base for armatures or large beads, shape Sculpey UltraLight to desired form and bake. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cover Sculpey UltraLight base with Sculpey III or Premo clay and bake again. Sculpey III and Premo clay sill chemically bond to the Sculpey UltraLight base when baked and make the final piece strong and crack resistant. Once cool, baked pieces can be polished, sanded, drilled, carved and painted the 100% acrylic paints.

Bake in an oven-proof glass or metal surface at 130 C(275 F) for 15 minutes per 6mm (1/4") thickness. DO NOT USE MICROWAVE OVEN. DO NOT exceed the above temperature or recommended baking time. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Supervise children during baking."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Side Bar: Clare's Wall-Sized Canvas Works!


This afternoon, Downstairs Clare and I completed installation and implementation of his ingenious wall-sized canvas support system. The pine frame with its array of dowel pegs were fastened to the concrete wall securely on a recent day. And on another, small spring clips were clover-hitched onto the pegs, allowing a versatile method of stretching painting substrates into the giant frame. All the way along, at several key steps, Clare and both had doubts about it working, but today as we tested it by stringing up a length of primed canvas, I actually saw glee burst outta Clare (which is about as rare a sighting as anything really super rare that you never ever see.) He said, smiling, "It works!"

I asked him how he came to dream this idea up and he said that while he was watching the movie Girl with a Pearl Earring, he saw in one shot an easel in the background that had the canvas stitched onto an open frame on the easel. Brilliant of him to adapt that quick observation to this scale I think.

Tomorrow, after the canvas has stretched itself out further, we can tighten up the tension strings and Clare can start throwing gesso (He knows what that means) ok, translation disclosure, because you are all artists and will understand; It's a phrase Clare advised to a painter that was having trouble loosening up, being too fussy and "shut down". The phrase stands for not overthinking and not be blocked by technique or method, instead painting for the Joy and as Clare said to the student; "Just throw the damn gesso!"

It's Progress, Right?

I just layered out the little acrylic diamond shapes onto sticky paper cut to size. I had to kind of fudge the pre-cut (!) (thanks Mark!) pattern here and there to fit into the actual bay window opening. I squeezed (squoze?) clear paper glue into the gaps between the shapes and will see if that might hold it somewhat in place. I first thought to use hot glue but then thought I'd try paper glue first as I had more sensitive control when applying it. Tomorrow I'll adhere previously made leading strips to both sides of the gaps and see how that works/looks.

All the tiny scratches I made from pulling off the acrylic's protective blue film, all the paper glue that I smeared onto the shapes while trying to tidy up the seams, and all the non-uniform spaces between the shapes, will make it look--homey? It's true, I would like the finished window to look as hand-made and rustic as the rest of the set rather than like a precision model. I intend to add much dirt and dusty filmy patina to the finished cottage windows anyway. My sloppiness will add "character".

Planning on posting large tomorrow.

Cheers.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cool People


Still from Woman Without a Past by animator, Lisa Barcy.

One of the animation professionals I met at the Aero yesterday was Lisa Barcy. She was sitting with LAFCA/American Cinematheque film critique/presenter for the screening, Ray Greene, and animation historian, Charles Solomon, right behind Himself and meself.

She was very warm and kind and not at all snooty, like an award winning animator, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the department of Film, Video and New Media (FVNM) at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, might have a right to be. She carries on the Starewitch tradition of traditional stop-motion through her own short films and through sparking the love of the art in her students*. My favorite of her clips I've seen so far is Woman Without a Past where she's employed cut paper and book leaves to tell the start of an intriguing tale.

There's something exciting about knowing there are young women artists out there loving the medium, making their art, and especially in Lisa's case, teaching others the love of it.

Very cool.

*From one of her animation class students: "Lisa is really great. she has interesting, varying projects, shows a lot of cool animation videos, shows some of her own stuff (but not flaunting). she is passionate about animation and it really shows. she is patient, kind and intelligent. i think she is one of the best teachers saic has. it is a time consuming class..lots of drawings & FUN!" and "Lisa is helpful, intelligent, and knows what she's doing. Her classes are a lot of work, but you will come out with a portfolio to be proud of. She is also willing to work with individual students whatever their ideas or situations. She is also not afraid to be honest about your work, which you will appreciate in the long run (really)."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Field Report: THE STORY OF THE FOX (LE ROMAN DE RENARD)


When the theater gently darkened, the 1937 film began to click through on spockets, and I saw the first few scenes of The Story of the Fox, all I could think was how much all my animator friends who visit here would LOVE to see this superlative stop-motion film. Today was the first-ever, ULTRA RARE English undertitled cinema screening of the restored Ladislas Starewitch film. It was an awe-inspiring look at a bold artist's inventive storytelling, rambunctious creativity, and the kind of filmmaking I absolutely dream of for my projects.

Tonight the bare description of the event, with more on my personal experience with it and some great people I met there, added tomorrow.

THE AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE PRESENTS
UNSHOWN CINEMA: THE ANIMATED FILMS THAT GOT AWAY
AT THE AERO THEATRE Presented in Association with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA)

screening of THE STORY OF THE FOX (LE ROMAN DE RENARD), (1937 (1940 Â? 41), 65 min.). Russian/French animation pioneer Ladislas Starewitch is considered the first animator ever to use stop-motion puppetry to tell coherent stories, and his alternately darkly humorous and lyrical works have influenced generations of animators, from George Pal to Jan Svankmajer to Tim Burton and the Brothers Quay. For Americans, REYNARD THE FOX (LA ROMAN DE RENARD) is his largely unseen masterpiece, a stop-motion marvel filmed mostly between 1929 and 1931 about the charming animal trickster of European folklore and his adventures as an unrepentant rogue. Shelved for six years as Starewitch adapted his techniques to the new medium of movie sound, this unique work had its world premiere in Paris in 1937 before being re-voiced and rescored for a 1940 Â? 1941 French re-release during the WWII German occupation. Starewitch'?s techniques are remarkable for their cinematic sophistication, deploying crash zooms, whip pans and motion blurs to lend his whimsical, often life-sized puppet creations (some nearly as large as their creator) the feel of real life. Despite some overtly subversive political messages, the unfortunate Vichy connection has kept REYNARD THE FOX largely unseen in America. The film'?s master elements languished in storage for 25 years after Starewitch'?s death before being reassembled and restored in 1990, a restoration on which the current version is based. Plus rare short films by Ladislas Starewitch. Screening to be introduced by animation historian, Charles Solomon.

It's currently available on (European) dvd and it was announced at the event that the restored version screened today will be a centerpiece of an upcoming touring Starewich celebration. If you can, I hope you'll find a way to see this stop-motion masterpiece achievement on a big 35mm screen.

French dvd available here
And also via French Amazon (!)
The DVD called LE ROMAN DE RENARD THE TALE OF THE FOX
the original French version with an undertitled English translation
commentary by Ladislas Starewitch grand daughter.
Some drawings of the film
A short film : FETICHE EN VOYAGE DE NOCES BOBBY NAVIGATOR
Biographical notes and a filmography of Ladislas Starewitch

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Animation Inspiration: Ernie Fosselius


"Mental Floss" Automata, photographed by Mark Frauenfelder, via Flickr

I just swung past Phil Dale's Fund My Short site where he gives a big hint about his plans for his newest animation short, Henry and Martha. It sounds great. He also shares an interview (sourced from the one day of Rocket Boom I missed) that features a great interview with filmmaker/animator/automata maker, Ernie Fosselius. I dare you to watch how this guy works and not be inspired to get into your workshops.

Excerpt from his wiki page:

"Fosselius' film career began in the early 1970Â’s when he co-created 20 original animated films for Sesame Street, he's best known for his classic Star Wars parody Hardware Wars. ...In recent years, Fosselius has retired from filmmaking and has taken to whittling mechanically animated carved caricatures and automata which he displays in traveling galleries called the "Marvelous Mechalodeon" and the "Crankabout Mechanical Theater", an entirely human powered exhibit."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dear Hila


Hello Hila Rosenberg Arazi, I just found your portfolio site through a friend and I absolutely ADORE your model design and construction!! I adore it so much that I almost want to dislike you because of your talent. It's just petty jealousy, I won't let it last!

I understand even though you're an Aussie now, you graduated in 2004 from "Bezalel" Academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem. Your miniature sets and 3D illustrations are so beautifully detailed and rich with delight and loveliness. They are places one wants to move into to live.

I can't wait to see your new 3D animations, Agora, The turned furniture in The Pillowman is exquisite, The eight sets you built for Cluttered are mind-bogglingly fine work, they all look fully fanciful and extraordinary.

Almost hating you but also wishing you the best of everything in life and your freelance creative work, Cheers!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Himself's Wooden Wonders


How's it DO that?!


please click image to see it move
While unpacking this morning, Himself recounted to me an experience of pure delight he had in London the other day. He went with his brother and two young nephews to a Megalopolis of a toy store in Soho/West End called Hamleys. He said it was one of those five story vintage places that's been around forever. He remembers his own trips there as a lad. He described to me his reaction when he stepped off an escalator there to find himself face to face with a lighted glass cabinet filled with the wonderments that are marvelous moving, wooden, automata (puppet figures or scenes that move in surprising ways as if alive.) You might think of it as automatic animation or mechanical sculptures.

Let me back track a sec to say that he and are are rabid automata/pop-up hound dogs, we can't get enough of these types of paper crafts. We love to watch the mechanisms move and marvel at the engineering. No matter how long we try, neither of us has yet begun to grasp how any of it works. He's collected and put together several paper automata kits from paper engineers from all over the world for years, some of our favorites are Flying Pig in the UK, Cabaret Mechanical Theater, Walter Rufflo in Germany, Keisuke Saka in Japan. He has a nice stash of them now, in case he ever has a day to enjoy such a thing.

These were wooden machines we'd never seen before in our previous online prowlings. Usually they'd be prohibitively expensive and/or sold as already finished pieces but before him that day was an array of great wooden kits by Timber Kits* for a non-insane price, too great to pass by for us, such is our passion for automata. He splurged and brought three home (I would have done the exact same), the Rower, the Musician (Woody Blues), and the Battery/Colouring Kit which hooks up to any of the machines to drive their mechanisms automatically. If they end up being as wonderful as they look they may be, we'd also like find one listed on the website that wasn't in the toyshop, the clapping pig too. It makes the same silly gesture he and I make as we go through our happy chipmunk life.

*From their site: "Timberkits are both a gift and a hobby; whereas many gifts are subject to whims of fashion, the creative delight in constructing our models is something that can be passed on from one generation to the next and is a welcome alternative in the age of keypad, screen and electronic bleep."

All Good Things


And so we bid a fond fare-thee-well to our experiment in priority. Congratulations and warm thankful heartfelt gratitude to me-self, Darkstrider and Ubatuber for completing our 16 day Production Intensive.

What a rush and a ride. I made relatively small progress on things, relative to my intentions, guestimates, and expectations. But I am 1,000% certain that without this Intensive Retreat I would not even have come close to the headway made. I reviewed my posts from last 16 days and found that while I felt I had accomplished precious little, I had in fact produced some pretty significant change towards making Halfland yet closer. But that's not even the best news.

A far greater thing happened for me than almost any completion could have done. I've experienced the power of (wait for it) EXCLUSION. I am finally beginning to understand what it takes to get large tasks done. Each day of the last 16, I had to continually choose to task for Halfland only and deliberately not choose the many many other things that were either pressing me to be done or tempting me with their creativity or even habitual for me to do. It was a remarkable thing at last to get. I could see that when I chose to do something non-project related there simply was not time in the day for Halfland, my goal. I knew that making certain things more important than the project meant that there had better be a darn good reason why it got top billing. I really understood responsibility and consequence as if I had never met them earlier in my life. In a way I hadn't, not with the focus that accompanies a certain maturity.

I pared everything back to bare bones, pushing away things I NEVER would have before. I took care of my essential responsibilities quickly and without procrastination each day, a wholly new behavior. I saw that if I wanted my goal realized I would have to take the necessary physical steps towards that, to the exclusion of practically anything else. It isn't discipline as I've understood it, a denial or postponement of pleasure imposed from outside ones nature. Instead this was like a shifting from my more impulsive approach to an applied concentration for its own brand of pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. It was enhanced and made 100X more fun by having Mike and Jeffery doing their work and posting daily as well. I loved checking their sites each morning and witnessing the exciting progress there. Having such support and encouragement from brothers like them, and all of you, was like a dream.


Right, so this morning I took a look at ma' Birds in Hats y'all. and I have revised my plan and instead will make and animate 1-3/4" puppets on the cottage set itself. For reasons I'm to pooped to splian right now. I had a second smaller raven Halloween decor, this time with open wings, as if in flight. I took the dear apart and noticed how the makers had fashioned the wings with a stiff "shoulder" reinforced feather that then had a graduated series of flat feathers fanning out from its stalk. I got the idea that if I follow this construction with my lusciously colored feathers (purchased for this purpose in New York 1993, by the way) sandwiched with thin wire, I could position each feather to shape the wings frame by frame rather than use replacement shapes.


Here's a quickie sketch of two, too-small Birds in Hats, made back in New York, popping out of one of their hatboxes.

Sven at Scarlet Star Studios gave a really cute idea for the bird's petite pageant. He thought I was going to have the birds nesting in a hatbox and various other hat and hatbox with bird play that I LOVE and will absolutely use for this scene. Thanks, Sven!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

On the Sparrow



Made a start of fabricating the supporting cast member puppets, Birds in Hats.

Keeping this Production Juggernaut rolling, I thought about Birds in Hats characters and their brief scene in the film. They are to be really just blank bird body shapes with bird legs, wings that flutter, eyes that blink, and beaks the chirp. Rather than sculpt and cast them, I thought to make a direct puppet. I may, and likely will, make two pairs of the squabbling squab as making small sparrow-sized bird puppets to scale for the set would have them be 1-1/2" tall and too difficult to animate as I'd like. I'll use scale puppets on set for long shots and 4 or 5" puppets for close-ups, animating them on a specially made set detail, compositing them into the final film.

I didn't have any Almaloy on hand thin enough, so I grabbed a 22 GA. Floral wire to work out how to wire the legs. These are a get going practice session trys because when the wire is doubled and twisted it's a bit to stiff to move easily. I trotted out the new Japanese air-dry soft clay, that I mentioned a while back, to add to the wire for bird leg flesh. I'll see how it dries in the morning---wait--it already is morning. Nevermind, I'll know the answer in time.

The bodies will be covered in beautiful colored feathers and then there are, of course, the hats! There are already velvet-lined hat boxes made and a nest to suit them. I'll need to make an ornate hand mirror in which the fussy dears will enjoy admiring themselves.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Facet-nating Detail


Generosity in glass, er, acrylic, a surprise gift of Rana's windows from redear and friend, Mark.

I went to my post office today to find a big package addressed to Rana. It was a supply of perfectly cut Elizabethan Tudor window patterns in panel to scale for the Halfland cottage sent as a surprise gift from regular commenter and reader here, Noogie. He's made me a wardrobe of options for how to create the sparkle of a real leaded bay window in miniature like I wanted to originally. It's too good to pass this up. Before I picked up the package I was determined to research Tudor window construction today as the ones I passed while driving around town had a specific effect that my recent technique wasn't really nailing. The previous method would be acceptable, but if I can use these materials instead, then the net effect will be hugely improved.


Have you ever noticed the "sparkle" I'm talking about on a diamond-paned (quarries) leaded Tudor window as you move past one? It seems to me that each quarry is placed at a slightly different angle due to the window's construction of grooved lead cames to hold the glass. That causes each diamond shaped surface to reflect like a facet instead of like a flat, single sheet. It's a small detail but one that if pulled off will read as much more authentic and adorable in miniature. I'll still have to smear the quarries with glass paint to knock down the machined perfection of the acrylic and I may still use my paint mixture to simulate lead cames, including the faux solder touches at the intersections, but now I've got a chance to go for the real look.

Thank you, Mark.

While out, I also bought about 30 feet of wooden window casing to finish the edges of the windows as they are seated into the plaster wall openings, another tub of my new toy joint compound, this one to tint ochre before applying, and a bale of rough hewn wooden shims that I intend to distress, stain and slice into shingles for certain roof spots.

A headache earlier squashed my date with Clare this afternoon, but I hope to catch up with him tomorrow, if he's not all booked up.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

My Patron Saint


My first art patron, Shari, models an art piece that augured Halfland's Tree.

My beautiful friend Shari and I have known each other for more than 20 years now. Twenty years full of life and learning, each in our own way. I lived with her in 1990 after my first divorce, crushing hard on the man who is now my husband, and completely adrift in terms of career, interests, direction. I was a meek, eccentric, capricious, frivolous, slightly delirious, irresponsible, flaky woman (I'm only one of those things now, guess which.) who felt a deep desire to express creativity and had positively no clue what that meant. Somehow, at that point, Shari commissioned me, my first, bless her heart, to create a fantasy soft-sculpture jacket for her.

She gave me a blank jacket she no longer cared for, scraps of fabrics, including bits of lace from her wedding gown with leaf shapes, and a snip of mink. As if a foreshadowing, I chose to make a woodland faery tree with and caterpillars and a tubby mole that is being hoisted up into the tree by faeries with wings made of pearlized plastic (new at the time). Again a tree. Again fanciful creatures. Hmm. This predates New York and the genesis of Halfland by far.

In any case, Shari paid me a lot of money to embellish that jacket for her at a time when I had never really made anything before. Her confidence and appreciation gave me validation and pride in what I could do. Inexplicably she has always been a champion of mine, a splendidly supportive friend. I guess that's what a real friend is. She saw something in me well before I could ever see it in myself.

She brought that jacket out during my visit to her home this afternoon, proudly pointing out the small details to her precious young daughter and son.


Thea models her mother's coat while all the creatures admire her back.

Frosting a Cottage


Because I knew you were coming...

Starting very late tonight, I applied a scratch coat of pre-mixed joint compound to all the cottage walls, inside and out. I first nicked the surfaces with one of our new dinner forks (sorry honey) and then troweled on the compound which felt like trying to apply an even layer of shaving cream onto a bowling ball. I'm sure the second or perhaps third coating will feel more controllable. I may even tint the last two coats like a Venetian Plaster.

Oh, this is getting good.

Made an appointment with Downstairs Clare for the beam cutting Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Re-a-Symboled Cottage

Shhh, Rana is sleeping in her forming foam doll house set, which is coming together better than I thought.

All the exterior and interior walls of the cottage have been triple decker sandwiched up and fitted with pegs at their bottoms (jokes? I dare you.) to slot into holes drilled into the set today. The perimeter is divided into five removable sections that lift up and out of the way for filming and animating access. The corners where the sections meet up will be nicely concealed by wooden trim pieces, as will the window panes once they're installed.

Next step will be to rake the surface of the foam with a fork (instead of wrapping it in screening) and plaster them up.

Next challenge will be to cut the roof support beams with Clare and decide between thatching or textured balsa planks for the roofing material to put on top of them. And how to configure the roof with the wall sections so sections of it can also come apart and be removed. Hmm, maybe hinges.

Take good care, All.

Monday, September 11, 2006

CheerfullChunkChewing


All the cottage wall section templates have been cut twice out of skinned insulation foam, ready to be glued together.


Once ready, each wall section will have one or two coats of plaster or joint compound applied, like the sample constructed yesterday had done today.

It's fantastic to chew chunks of this project. It's so gratifying to move forward with things that will show great progress as so much of this has only been in my mind for so long.


A trio of views of the revised sculpt for Tarn, the half-crow woman.

Standard cosmetic surgery for Tarn today, much like many Beverly Hills women. The sculpt had lost its articulation with the application of clay layers and looked too doughy. I had to go in and take down a great deal of the undersculpt in order to allow for the clay to go on and to restore a more delicate femininity to her left side.

Now I like the sculpt again and finally see my way into creating her to completion. (I wonder if God had this much fun coming up with His creatures?!)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Balls to the Walls


I find that some things take balls while others take finesse. Today was a balls day.

I had to take a stab at some measurements of the beam positions and then dismantle them. Then I could start to remove the main set cottage walls in sections and mark their position on the set. I removed them all and began to cut insulation foam to fit each panel. I then pasted cut pieces of foam to both sides of the original cardboard walls, like a different sammich and wrap it in fiberglass screen ($6/roll). The idea being the soft flexible window screening mesh would give firm traction as an underment to the plaster daub coating. I have a wall pressed between boards under heavy weight overnight to dry before I test plaster it tomorrow.

Lots of detailed tasks take finesse, sculpting, meticulous styling of clothing and other tiny props, etc. or even the artistry of editing a final scene requires a skillful flair. But the moves I made today took a bold heart and called for a kind of backbone that I usually shy away from.

And as a fun bonus, inspired by the fabulous workshop tips from master miniature builder, Rik Pierce. I cut a hole in the bottom of the tree stove fire place, clipped a 7 watt flame-colored bulb into an empty glass spice jar, ran the cord down through the tree to the outside landscape, and did a quick dressing to check the effect. That's going to look just like I wanted by the time I'm through.


I also managed to create a custom Tudor-style leading for the next two arch-shaped windows for the cottage. I quite like it and look forward to getting more of the lead out.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Relief by Degrees


HOW TO USE YOUR NEWLY PURCHASED PROTRACTOR:
(suffer along with me, won't you?)

1. Find the center hole on the straight edge of the protractor.
--Check.

2. Place the hole over the vertex, or point, of the angle you wish to measure.
--Huh? You mean the point of the peak where the beams meet?

3. Line up the zero on the straight edge of the protractor with one of the sides of the angle.
--There's no zero on this protractor, but I can imagine where the zero would be if it had one.

4. Find the point where the second side of the angle intersects the curved edge of the protractor
--I'm lost. I don't see how the second beam would intersect but when I follow the instructions I get 45 degrees anyway.

5. Read the number that is written on the protractor at the point of intersection. This is the measure of the angle in degrees.
--Yeah, that's what I'm after apparently.


Today I taped the roof into one piece, labeled the sections and wall positions, and then removed it from the cottage in one piece. I then removed and discarded about half the amount of stand-in beams to minimize the support beam number in the final design. I can imagine this will look very good when the real beams are cut and installed. I'll ask Clare if he'll help me get the measures so we can cut these here beams.


I also managed to pipe a bunch of leading whips. I found that adding a thick transparent "window color" (the kind that can be peeled away when dry) to certain diamonds in the lattice gave a pretty good facsimile of poured glass. I learned from Rik Pierce's method to add more depth of color to the leading by adding flat black and pure silver to the intersections. This improved the effect greatly.

I double leaded the sample panel and have to report it works so well--I'm satisfied with this technique for the cottage. In fact, I love doing it. I plan to do different Tudor patterns on the other window shapes and even to incorporate special glass items to a spot or two with this method. Whew, what a relief.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Licorice Whips and Window Making Tips


A little further experimentation proved to be fruitful. I've worked out a technique for manufacturing old metal-look Tudor window leading that is duck soup and may look right.

I haven't seen friend Mark's suggestion yet, nor have I gone looking for master dollhouse craftsman Rik Pierce's method, nor Laika's secret tutorial site (if only) nor to the handy SMA handbook. But I've come up with a technique that I like well enough, and may even love at some point. There are several commercial products available to simulate the look of "pig iron" window leading out there but I chose to work up something that would a. cost less than buying ready made and b. look more hand-made to better match everything else in Halfland. Plus, by mixing my own formula it allowed me to mix the exact color and patina I'd like. I chose a mainly back flat iron but with a muted silver metal finish to it. It just really does look like miniature antique window mullions in person.

The sample acrylic window panel had been first coated with gloss medium applied with a foam brush and allowed to dry. Above on the left, you see (in reenactment) the right scale squeeze bottle (syringes also worked but were more difficult to control pressure for even flow.) I created lines of the silvery gun metal looking mixture by running the bottle's tip along a straight edge (raised to the correct height for that bottle). I first touched the tip to the surface (flexible plastic or wax paper sheet surfaces, both worked) to start/anchor the line then lifted the bottle tip up and ran it right along the straight edge, letting the line of paint fall onto the surface on its own. After a while, with practice keeping the pressure even, I was able to get the lines fairly straight and uniform. When dry, they lifted easily of the wax paper. Then I used clear paper glue to adhere the dry line lengths following the pattern laid under the panel. I trimmed the licorice like lines with an Exacto™ blade by pressing the blade down to the surface at the desired angle and removing the unwanted portion of line by lifting it away. Adding all the lines to one side took under and hour to complete, and it was a cinch.


Depending on how precise you'd like the look you could match the leading thicknesses up better and trim the joins more tightly. For myself I was merely testing this idea out and needed things to look a bit obviously hand-done anyway. Last shot taken from the inside the cottage, looking out.

Next I'm planning on repeating the treatment to the reverse of the panel to see if it looks more realistic, as the windows will be filmed from both sides. And I'll also be adding more gloss medium in spots to see whether it will make these windows look more like the uneven poured glass I'm after.

Tudor Pewter


I was slowly awakened before dawn, dreaming I was feeling increasing pain. Finally it got to a degree where pains woke me up and I realized it was real. I am besmurched. Good news though, so far the pains have been managed with regular high doses of Ibruprofin. I was even feeling well enough to go with Clare to Nova Color this morning and we had a great time there. I told Barbara, their most excellent expert paint partner, that I wondered what would happen if I mixed their Black gel for dimension with their incredible metallic Stainless Steel and a matte Black gesso for the miniature window leading. She ooo'd at the thought and proceeded to open the jars to test the combination while raving about what happens when you mix these sort of pigments. Her swatch test resulted in a stunningly beautiful antique pewter look and it rang my bell big time. She also tipped Clare and I off to how their gorgeous Red Iron Oxide looks exactly like real rust when blended atop the Steel with a touch of black. Noted.

Late tonight, I took a simple Tudor pattern and scaled it to fit a panel of the bay window, taped a piece of acrylic on top, mixed the three Pewter pigments together in a squeeze bottle and proceeded to pipe a bead of the mixture on the test piece following the pattern as well as possible. I'll see how it changes and looks when more matte when dry. A next version should have more Steel and less gel to be even better and I've got to do a better job of making the lines straight and even. Tomorrow I can fill in the diamonds with differing thicknesses of the gloss medium and perhaps repeat the process on the reverse, including piping leading on the second side, like a real Tudor window would look. We'll see.

Not much done today but it could be worse. So I'm pleased.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

This is my friend Clare


This is my friend Clare. This is his studio. These are the paintings we moved to make way for his WALL-SIZED CANVAS!

I'm helping Downstairs Clare transform one of his sun lit studio walls into a painter's delight. Yesterday we rearranged some of his lumber and stuff to clear everything away from a wall. Today we used his drill press to prep six 1 x 3's planks. These will get about 12 dowel pins inserted each that once applied to the wall will become a rig for stretching canvas. The 10' x 20' wall will act as stretcher bars. Can you imagine?! Tomorrow I'll help him install the rigging to the wall. After that, he'll take miles of canvas, stretch it like a giant Inuit seal skin and commence to paint with gargantuan implements like mops I'm guessing. What fun!


And this, This my friends is why I'm happy to help Clare. Happy to serve he and his wife dinner tonight. What is it, you ask? This is a compound cut in my beam stock that Clare cut for me today.

I showed him the set and splained how I wanted the six beams, which by the way are convening at different angles and are not equidistantly set apart, to meet in the middle peak like a thing of glory. Then he splained me that the only way would be to take a protractor (!), measure each beam for it's angle, number and cut them on a tilted table saw blade, in order to cut two surfaces at once. You can see two sample beams joined in the photo, the additional four beams would fall into the cluster like a faceted pointed tip.

He and I are heading off in the morning to NOVA COLOR*, (which, if you don't already know about--I'm sorry to have held out on you. They are a wonderful local pigment/acrylic paint manufacturer that sell direct out of a little ally near us (and online) the most vivid amazing array of paint and mediums you have to see to be inspired by for easily half the cost of lesser quality product. If you paint, check it.) I'm going for duh, gloss medium and gel. And I want to try a black matte gesso in a syringe for the faux leading test.

Oh, and I went to a big art supply store today and got a 5 lb. brick of JollyKing Plasteline (what I'm used to from Michael Curry's shop--love the stuff) and a 2 lb. block of No 1 (soft) Roma Plastilina. Isn't is romantic the way it's wrapped in paper vellum? Makes me feel like I'm back in 1742 Italy. Hang on Tarn!

Tomorrow it's also going to be about wall to wall... well, walls!!!

*Nova Color Artists' Acrylic Paint is made with a top grade pure acrylic binder and is heavily saturated with the best pigments available. Nova Color Artists' Acrylic Paint is strong and brilliant.

Window on my World


My acrylic sample strip and supply of blanks. And a nice simplified alternative pane pattern.

This was my initial Tudor pattern idea, as recently as this morning.

Dudes, you have been great. OF COURSE I'm looking hard at faking the leading! I wrote the idea off up until today because I don't want a faux look and really really want this type of window to change image distortion as you move past it, like a real poured glass window would. Let me say a word on why here. You see, I'm in a pickle. Not only does my set have to look good for film, it also has to look good when viewed from 360 degrees nose to window close.

I've got this cockamamie idea that the Halfland main set will be displayed in a gallery next to a looping cinema of it. For me, it's more artpiece than film short. Not that I'm at all dissing films, you can be sure, just that my vision for this complicates things, but not impossibly.

I've looked around and decided this, today, right now, tomorrow I'm going to make a sample window with faux leading and gloss medium painted in different thicknesses within the diamond shapes and then photograph it. I will be doing my best to create a believable faux Tudor miniature window. If it screams out; "Doll Hoooouuuuse!!!" to me then YES!! Mark, I would be most interested in your idea for how to do individual panes more easily!

Update tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What in Tarnation?!


I cut into Tarn's face to make its left side more human, adding check bones and a chin. I started adding Van Aken modeling clay as I've done in the past but found it far too mushy soft in this heat we're having to function as a sculpt that will one day need have a mold made of it. With no other clay in the shop I opted for a method that can't possibly work; Della Robbia air dry clay OVER the soft plasticine in spots that needed extra support, like a plaster bandage. That's nuts, it'll crack when dry like crazy, oh well.

Brief progress for me today but progress nonetheless. I excitedly woke up at 7:00 am to begin another meaty 1/2 L. day but found instead several phone calls, emails and errands were needed for a paid project. It apparently takes more time to spin plates than I thought. After that and eating and helping out downstairs Clare a bit, it was a scandalous 9 pm before I got down to do much.

I also cut a strip of plexi and tested several types of mediums to see if any would take the machine perfectness off of the surface and give an old fashioned window look. The best result was simple gloss acrylic medium smeared on with thumb. It became very clear when dry and had a slight watery look that may do well. I originally was going to use glass for the cottage windows but feel a little better about the unbreakable, lighter plexiglass right now. I wrapped a couple of small sample panes with copper foil and will have to determine the way I'll want to join the panes for the dozens of little diamond shaped panes in the cottage's tudor-style windows. If it works, soldering and then adding a chemical patina may be the quickest, easiest and most secure. I'll ask Clare tomorrow.

We'll see what clay I come home with tomorrow to rescue Tarn.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ah, But How?


I'm not finished for the day yet but I thought I better catch you up on the fun over here. Yesterday, I went out to get some pink or blue Polystyrene™ insulation foam to carve the cottage walls, woo hoo. But the two places I went didn't carry any. (wtf?) But as it turns out, that was perfect because what I did buy will end up being a faster method. I plan to still track some of the elusive crunchy stuff later to shape flats of it into the surrounding cottage landscape, a better idea after all.

What I did pick up was a sheet of 1/8" acrylic Plexiglass™ and a fresh plastic cutter to start sampling up various mediums and clear paints to see which photographs most like early poured glass for the cottage's Tudor-style leaded windows. More on that during the week.

I also bought my first miter box as I intend to cut the cottage beams at nice angles to meet at the top of the skylight, etc. More on that during the week too.

Other bits and hardware bobs, oh, and big ol' sack o'plaster later, I'm supplied to rock.

Last night I started in on the Tarn main character sculpt. (If you ever want to catch up you can always type "Tarn" in the Blogger "search this site" field at the top and it'll pull all previous references to her character here.) And here's something I would like to say right up front, one of the benefits of not wanting Halfland to be a commercial success thus freeing myself to not try to impress people "in the field" is that I can do things here fast, sloppy, ugly, corner-cutting, and wrongly in order to serve my larger purpose of making the film for myself. Documenting progress here isn't about doing things correctly or particularly well, just doing them. When Halfland gets done it won't be each detail done to perfection as that would take about 75 years. So, it's my best expression where it counts when all the components come together in editing, etc. Thanks for listening.

Right, so, Those that have seen the Tarn reference images probably saw that I have had a vivid idea of this character for many years. I'd bought life-size crow Halloween decoration years ago with a half-assed idea to use it as a reference. But letting my hands work without my mind knowing what to do, I plucked the dear of her hand-glued (by Chinese slaves) feathers down the hollow rubber. I shoved her onto a base, extended her bird leg on her right and added a wire human arm and leg armature on her left. Now here's where it got hard and then fun. I'm looking at this bird and thinking about it being half woman vertically and I realize that I have not a clue how to blend those two ideas together in reality. Not a clue. It's a clear idea, half crow/half woman, but how would one actually do that when they have to actually make it in 3D? Ah, but how would you?

I was at a loss but kept working at it, carving into the rubber and stitching it like a soft sculpture, adding foam and tape to attempt to create a female form that seemed in some way like it were a functional creation. I cheated by extending the bird leg to help blend the two and was helped by the fact that this character is wounded on her human leg and therefore has it kept bent and hobbled.

Tomorrow I can add rolled layers Plastalina on top and sculpt her furthermore. Fantastic day today.

The Heir to Starewitch



Our new friend, Michael Granberry at Red Hatchet Films just brought a 2003 music video to my attention via his comment at Grant Goans' OAR.

It's a music video entitled, "There, There", directed by Chris Hopewell for Radiohead's 2003 album, Hail to the Thief. (This took a bit of doing to find out.)

It strikes me as a loving and inspired homage to Starewitch's, Fleur De Fougre (clip 1), that I just happened to be watching again the other day at Darkstrider's Brilliant Clip GalleryYou'll notice it immediately when you see the pseudo-rig-look running sequence. As a matter of fact, the entire film is to me an ingenious reproduction of stop-motion puppet movements. And can we talk about how much work must have gone into animating the huge animal tea party scene!? I think our forefathers would be proud of everyone who worked on this wonderful fable film.

There, There on iFilm

a less clear copy on YouTube

UPDATE: On further viewing, I find You tube's clip to be far clearer and without annoying rainbow banding artifact while iFilm's can be viewed larger.

It's the closest thing in spirit to Halfland I've seen yet and I loved the little house in the tree, the lizard/frog creature rolling by on his bicycle in the foreground especially. I saw at least one face profile in the negative space created between the trees of the forest. (But then again I've watched it 10 times already.)

(Wikipedia sites that There, There's director's inspiration was a UK stop motion telly show, Bagpuss. However, I suspect that's a misguided assumption. But still, it seems another cute, successful stop-motion series to know about regardless.)

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Making Hay

...Actually, that will happen later (and I mean that *literally*).

Yesterday was pure JOY. It was perhaps the first day of my life that I felt I legitimately had no other obligation on earth than to work on Halfland. No family obligations, no work obligations, my craft projects set aside in my mind. The difference was a kind of bliss.

I started in at 11, after two hours in the morning of breakfast and surfing and I have no idea what. (I just remember what the delay was, I woke up yesterday with a real pain in the neck. I couldn't turn my head and so spent a while trying to relax the knot with heat treatments, didn't work but I worked anyway. It's nearly gone today.) I was rushing to get as much done as possible while there was daylight as the lighting here at night is very poor. During the day the light is inspiring and energizing, go, go, go. And at night it's sit in one place and do small things that aren't very exciting or taxing. And you may too have noticed that the sun set an hour earlier by about 7 last night. Happy End of Summer Holiday indeed. I'm going to have to go to bed earlier so I can wake at sunrise to maximize my progress.


I fell asleep on the couch after dinner and am up at it here at 8, a little better. Before I conked out I was able to work out the solution for how to handle my desire to have a basement in the cottage. It'll be the Writing Mouse's teeny tiny house built into the roots of the tree. The house's entry is at the roots and then descends down underground level, like a burrowing animal's might. I built the rough of the house.


I also re-worked the bay window and added another dormer in the kitchen. Much like the way Mike gave me insight into the working of animal leg structure that helped me grasp it enough to animate my goat character, I'm starting to get a sense of houses from boring holes of hard focus into the reference images I have for them. When I drive around, my eyes can't help but notice every house's form. I'm starting to understand that slanted roofs over doorways are there to channel rainwater and such away from the home's interior as people enter and exit, etc. Basically that everything concerning a house's structure is functional and developed in that way after centuries of experience of what is practical. They don't just put things like eyebrow windows because they're decorative (bad example). The point is, my world has increased to understand more about how houses are built. And to a degree that I feel is sufficient to get mine built.

Tarn sculpt progress later...

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The College of Collage


Reference clipping collage for the cottage interior. The bedroom feeling is on the right, hearths in the middle, interior beams ceilings and wood plank floors on left bottom, and texture and lighting detail mixed in.

Today was FANTASTIC! This, this is how I should lead my life as much as possible. I went straight to work on my paid graphic job's surprise revisions first thing this morning. It took me a few hours to complete and I was ready to work on my stuff by late afternoon. Prior to the 1/2 L. Intensive I would have put off my graphics work for days or weeks and/or taken all day and all night to accomplish less.

But the real schoolin' I got today, the thing that proved the most difficult, was how much determination it took me to REPEATEDLY and to OFTEN say "no" to all the 1,000 little "just do" side projects in the workshop. I began with a powerful need to straighten up the confused dusty shop rather than dive into Halfland in the midst of such neglected clutter. I bagged and listed all the little craft project ideas that would have been fast and fun in my mind to have done. That was the thing, I think I may have experienced MY FIRST DAY OF SELF DISCIPLINE!!? I kept consciously choosing to make Halfland my priority all day. I was amazed at how many times the road divided!! For those of you who have always possessed self-discipline, you will think me foolish for just getting a taste of it now. I've had to prioritize in order to get projects done before, just not with such sustained deliberateness. This was very educational to observe.

I had the paste out, doing a quickie scrapbook page that I couldn't set aside with good humor. Not one to waste a loaded brush of glue, I started collaging the cottage interior clippings. After I saw them, I realized it was absolutely the right next step to do as so much of building the cottage involved the beams and window alcoves. I continued to collage other envelopes that seemed likewise key to the cottage, including doors and windows, the porch, wood pile, window boxes, and lanterns, seen just below.


Jeffery inspired me to get started on the Birds in Hats supporting characters. This is their little collage.


This one shows the types of various wool roving, looms, and weaving structures that Rana character will use on her cottage porch.


I'm going to bed now so I can get up and jump on the cottage and start in in earnest to construct the sucker. I'll go as far as I can with finishing the layout of it, especially since the wood has shown up.

I pulled out the Tarn (crow woman) materials today and plan to condition some ancient modeling clay and get to begin sculpting in her in the afternoon.

Sunday I may want to scoot out with a friend to a home center to collect some blue or pink polystyrene to carve the cottage walls and a bag o' plaster with which to slather them, the walls--not the friend.

We'll see how far I get when the WHOLE day is truly cleared for this work.
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