Saturday, June 30, 2007

Back and Forth

Lots of good Halfland action has gone on the last few days; there was some testing of bark texture and color, leaf painting, leaf attaching, etc. only some of which I'll fit in here... Let's get to it! w00t.
A real log in studio on left, one of my painted tree test branches on right. I was surprised that taupe was in the bark color at all. All this time I thought it would be browns!
I started my test branch painting by applying a base coat of warm brown. Alternating layers of taupe and spraying watered down black/brown dye started working. It's a back and forth process of adding different colors to get both the bark and the leaves how I want them. Back and forth. Back and forth. Color color.
After much mind strain on how I could handle the leaf treatment, I think I've hit upon my method. It involves a kind of mental compromise between theatrical-ness and real-ness. I slopped on about 10 different shades of green on a few leaf fronts and a few red/browns on their unders, then did a quick hand-painted thin vein lines down the face of each leaf in random contrasting greens. The results fit the Halfland rustic visual style and did the magic trick of something that's hand-made. Because each one is loved for a minute while painting it, it strikes a reasonable balance between the store bought leaf and my handicraft.

PLUS--After I worked this point out for myself, I came to remember a cabbage prop that I "took*" from Julie Taymor's film, "Fool's Fire" (*Hey, they were just throwing all of them out and that was so wrong to this obsessed fan!) Above on the left you can see it along with a still shot of the main character running through the cabbage patch in the film where it was actually used. Up close this cabbage too is a real slop slop job--however--on camera it has a wonderful handcrafted feel and provides a perfect illusion, matching her film's aesthetic style. When I grasped that idea, I was even more convinced that I knew what to do with my leaves.

Today's test samples are on the upper right. I used tinted flexible cement to adhere the painted stems to the finished test branches. I'm thrilled to see the tree coming to life.

Now please allow me to describe the techniques I tried earlier today that didn't work on the leaves: texture paint (didn't really alter the plastic stem surface much for a lot of trouble in brushing it on, plus it's expensive.), non-toxic spray paint in aresol can (this stuff would be perfect for what it is designed to do which is to spray color onto fabric, even though the leaves are fabric, their surface couldn't hold the color much.), adding corn starch to paints to thicken them (this just chipped right off when dry.)

I re-decided to tile the flat stair surfaces inside the cottage. But this time they'll be a solid ochre/terra cotta color in order to compliment, not conflict, with the patterned tiles made for the risers. And this time I worked out a (if I say so myself) clever method of creating the custom tiles to the exact spaces they need to go. I took masking tape to the set and pieced down the shapes for each stair step, peeled these shapes up in one piece to use as paper templates on the rolled out slabs of clay. I cut these clay shapes into tiles squares and will simply mosaic them in place in the cottage after they're painted. This is so much easier than trying to create a mosaic that will fit the unusual spaces, after the fact.
And in other outdoor news... I stumbled upon how good the exterior walls might look painted with a mixture of gesso and pale yellow acrylic. (See the before and after in the middle shot, new color on right.) I'm very happy with the look and I feel it had to go down the way it did, first dark brown, then the sheer finish, probably just like real folk Tudor style cottages might look after the rot with age.

After the whole set is nearing completion, I'll be diving onto the whole thing with some black/brown dilute "bug juice" to age it all nicely.

Having an incredibly fun time working on this project now. I still spend a lot of time imagining the characters and the story as well. There are slight moments of feeling that it is too much to be done. But I step over those feelings and get on with the next thing to be done.

I am also getting the feeling that after Halfland is done, I'd really want to do it all again because it's so enjoyable, so why not enjoy it now?!

I wish that feeling for all my friends.


  1. Looking incredible and edible!!! I think I'd use lots of montage shots to showcase those closeup details like the awesome branch in your first pic above. You know, a series of brief closeups showing all these great details in order to establish the surroundings and create a sense of completion.

  2. Dear Hungry Boy, Thank you for your kind note. Yes, I too think a montage of detail would do well on this. I will consider your suggestion poste tasty. Sincerely, me

  3. Nick Hilligoss2:03 AM

    It's great to see so much coming together. Very nice work on the tree and leaves.
    Your attention to detail is awesome and enviable. I was a little concerned though, that it was looking like a medieval cathedral style project, requiring generations to complete... but now I see many things getting done, and without the shortcuts I always resort to, and I know it's going to be worth it.
    Thanks Shelley for your discovery that Frog and Toad (read about, but never seen) was hidden away on a Curious George DVD where I never would have thought to look!
    Nick Hilligoss
    (One of Mike Brent's stopmo friends.)

  4. Nick Hilligoss!!!!!!!!! Duh! Your're not only Mike's friend... but all of ours!!! I'm a mega fan of your films and your generous instruction on your sites and at the SMA board.

    I too share your concern about the 30 year timeline it looked like I was on with this!!! I really thought I was going (or arrived at) insanity.

    All your film experience made it obvious when you saw what was happening (or not happening) here that I was in for an inordinate amount of work the way I was going about it. Too much detail.

    I'm cutting corners where I can. It's my attempted balancing act; cinematic, theatrical, and real.

    I will say that I can see no shortcuts in your films, only great animation, with loads of loving detail telling meaningful stories!! You obviously are making the right choices!

    I'm so delighted you got to see Frog and Toad, aren't they wonderful?! Jim Aupperle was kind enough to let me know he appreciated how much those special films were being admired.

    Cheers for writing, 'Mate!!

  5. Yep, I couldent agree more those branches are making me Greener (Get it, Green, Like a Leaf) With envy every Day!

    and I couldent agree more with your last note, I'm so enjoying making everything, Animating Seems so Boring!


  6. Hi Ben, Nooooo! We've got to enjoy each push and click of our puppets too!! That's part of the making to be enjoyed! And the editing... And the effects, and the music...

  7. Yep, I'm currently creating little Miniature Acrylic Paintings for the Sets in my Films!, Crazy Huh but Sooo Enjoyable! :-)


  8. Totaly addictive!!

    I Understand completely.



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