Wednesday, July 29, 2009

100 Days: Peggy's Paper Forest

Multi-talented artist, animator, eFriend, Peggy Fussell, wrote to me the other day that she would be stopping in LA during a family trip last week and might have an afternoon to visit Halfland. I was thrilled to meet her in person as Peggy has been so personally supportive of what I'm doing. She sent me 2 incredible, (1) creative (2) fishes to use the famous underwater scene in the film. I knew she was creative and talented and supportive but what I didn't know until she walked in and gave me a big warm hug, spent the day warmly chatting, tying up her skirts and creating perfect work for Halfland, looking at finished film props on the floor, sharing stories about her life, etc., is that it would hurt when she left.

I literally felt like crying when she said goodbye. Let me tell you, whomever her friends and neighbors are in Maryland are the luckiest people on earth. Peggy is so big-hearted and fun, so sensible and wise, so humble and kind, a loving wife to David, and mother to two flower-like girls (with an add'l lovely girl to spare just for this trip). She is an active and successful freelance illustrator who manages to create wonderful works of art for herself and her family everyday. She has many years of experience in 2D animation and is currently collaborating on a fascinating poetry animation concept.

I wish I photographed Peggy's bag-of-tricks as she calls it. She carries a durable electrician's tool bag filled with drawing supplies with her wherever she goes. She can live without the Internet but not without her journals, she says. She used her pencils to render for me the most graceful and superlative tree trunks out of cardboard. Man, did I pick the right task for the right guest artist. We laid out acres of cardboard panels on the floor and Peggy began sketching with poise and ease. As an illustrator, it was no strain for her to make easy lines that felt real and proportioned properly.

Armed with utility knives, we cut them all out while we talked about life. It was a revelation for me to have professional help on the project. I showed Peggy my paper cutout reference images and discussed the concept and she not only understood my ramblings exactly, but BOOM she quickly executed it without a flaw. I'm spoiled now.

Just as her family arrived to collect her, I violated several child labor laws and recruited the girls to fill in a base coat on Peggy's drawn foliage shapes with white gesso. They all got to sign the Guest Artist board for contributing though.

The next day, I used several greens blended on top as a background for suggestions of leaf shapes. I cut them out, sliced them down the middle, and hot-glued them back on the shape in places to add dimension.

I painted all the trunks with white gesso today, attached supports to the reverse sides so they can stand up. Single-ply cardboard is too floppy to stand on its own.

I propped a few of them up on the edge of the main set to begin to work out what I want to do with them. The idea was to use then as theatrical proscenium and a blending from Halfland's 3D reality to my actress Rose Red's live action 2D paper puppet play version of the tale. But I've got to develop how to marry their 2D cartoon-like form with Halfland's near-realism, at least in part.

Peggy, If there's ever anything I could ever do for you in return, I'd welcome the chance with acute delight. Admiring all you do :)... from way over here :(


  1. Anonymous4:59 AM

    Oh Shelley, you are toooo kind!! I had so much fun with you and am honored to have had an opportunity to help out in Halfland! Thank you again for the hospitality and the lovely lunch. I am so happy to have you as a friend, darling.

    Goodness, I am getting choked up....

  2. How fun!! I'm overwhelmed by all these posts, let me see...that hats are so cute, and of course the spider. These trees look just perfect. Oh and love the new header too. :)

  3. Great meeting of artists...

    so very FUN.


  4. peggy does rock--it's nice to hear her fine qualities enumerated here! i look forward to seeing the finished work . . .

  5. It's really not fair, Peggy. Why can't we all live next door to each other?

    Thanks, Elva!

    Thanks, Justin!

    KC, it'll be a long while, although, the film will be presented in 10 second pieces as they are finished. Hoping you'll stay tuned!

    Do you live in Maryland too?

  6. Oh, KC, I see you are in NYC. I LOVED living there. So much creative energy.

    I like your collage work (! Rock on.

    Thank you so much for subscribing here!

  7. Vaowww you and Peggy got together in Halfland??? One more time I am sooo jealous of you guys. I met Peggy online through your blog a while ago and I really like her illustrations a lot. And her daughters are very lucky to have Peggy.

    What a great idea to combine these 2D paper trees with Halfland's 3D reality!! Why did you paint the trunks in white? Are you thinking about playing with the lighting while shooting the frames?

  8. (I missed saying thanks to Elva and Justin) HI!!! and thanks!!

    HI Yazzy, no--hadn't thought of using lighting or projections on the tress-- but that's brilliant! No, I painted the tress white so they would be confused with the small white paper hand puppets that Elva (Jessica, my beautiful live actress at the end of the film) will use for a mock Halfland white paper puppet show.

    I still need to blend the two styles together better. Working on it. Really hard.

  9. WOW! WOW! and WOW!!!!

  10. Oh, i see. I didnt know about Elva and her part in Halfland. I should dig back in your blog to read about that part. Sounds amazing!

  11. Hi< Yaz. I'm not sure I have her scene in the story outline in my sidebar. I should get in thee and make sure it's up to date.

    It's basically just a brief scene at the end, after the flowering thoughts, where we transition to Jessica with white paper cut outs of several characters in the film. She's alone in a pretty wood, making a puppet play for herself against a sheet hung over a tree branch.

    The idea is to make the 3D real puppets/landscape of Halfland you see me building here become a more true reality by representing it in a crude white paper version. I'm playing with a perceived reality, attempting to make my created world slightly more tangible with the contrast with visuals even less dimensional.

    Thanks for asking. That helped me to describe what I'm after.

  12. "...The idea is to make the 3D real puppets/landscape of Halfland you see me building here become a more true reality by representing it in a crude white paper version..."

    Vaowww.. such a great idea!! I now get Elva's role here. Thanks for explaining.

  13. It really helped me to phrase it here-- thank YOU!

  14. Oh, and isn't Elva, beautiful!? I've got to post about the fun cut paper puppets I'm making for her scene. Either this season or next year--right, Elva!

    I've got a bit more examples of the 2D paper tree concept in the next wall tour video episode too...


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