Thursday, August 31, 2006


A new carnival across the street started up tonight. It's kind of fun to hear the intermittent rolling shrills of delight. They stop at 11.

We're off to a boffo start on our Halfland Intensive. I had to drive across town for a printing project and decided to swing by Bergamot Station (an uber hip cluster of art galleries and design houses installed in a former railroad station in Santa Monica.) which we've found offers the finest dumpster diving in LA. Himself and I will drive in and head for the gallery bins when time permits and usually come away with useful things for the workshop.

Today it was like Santa heard my wish because the exact thing I was after was there by the truck load. I was hoping to find a few odd 2 x 4's that I could ask Downstairs Clare to rip down to cottage beams on his table saw. But what I found was a mountain of hundreds of already perfectly to scale 3/4" to 1" x 3/4 pine stock in 7' lengths. I looked around for what idiot company left this supply of exactly what I needed on and near the trash dumpsters without plastic or sign telling people to back off. I asked the custodian if they were trash and he confidently indicated they all were. So, I (quickly) helped myself to as much as I thought I'd need for beams and stairs, etc. I'm only slightly sure I didn't steal these.

I also stopped off to treat myself to a little art supply fix and picked up a new Japanese craft clay (Deco Magic Soft Clay*) that I hadn't tested yet. It feels like marshmallow fluff and dries like a soft small-cell Styrofoam. I've used things like it but I can't resist new material. Worst case it'll be perfect for teacup roses and other set landscape florals.

(*Deco Magic Soft Clay was developed over 30 years ago in Japan by Kazuko Miyai. The clay is very light, pliable, and extremely easy to handle, making it perfect for detail work and is available in a variety of colors. The air dried finished items are soft and light to the touch, yet very durable and flexible.)

HALFLAND INTENSIVE: 16 Days of Building & Progress

Bug hair

Well now. Himself is in Europe for three weeks. Ballet teacher away until the 6th. Food is stocked in fridge. Work projects printing, requiring only slight plate spinning.

Beginning this evening, I will be ruthlessly focused on Halfland progress. I want to build the cottage and begin to landscape the set. I want to begin the Tarn sculpt. I want to make Birds in Hat's stand-ins and animate a wee clip of them scuffling.

This opportunity is wonderful and my excitement has reached giddy heights.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

FIELD REPORT: Animatronic Exhibit

"It's Alive!" Bringing Animatronic Characters to Life on Film
Fourth Floor Gallery, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Beverly Hills, California, USA
(Exhibit extended to September 10) Free admission

Took some time out today to visit a well reviewed exhibit of movie magic special effect creature heyday mechanisms, type, deals. Glad I went, neat to see. Some of it posted to my Flickr page here for you:

Show Pix

Enjoy! I start out with what I responded to most at the show and then add additional shots for my geekier friends.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Picture Stories

I came across a marvelous resource today that has already influenced some aspects of Halfland. I admit that I've never enjoyed what I knew of comic books, even though some of my best friends love them. threw a link to a wiki page ( that explored the origins of balloon or scroll speech throughout historic art. The image above is what initially caught my eye, as I'd never before considered the origins of this device. Seeing them in this context sparked an inspiration for some personal (outside 1/2 L.) artworks.

An external link there ( lead me to Bug Powder. I started poking around the rest of their origin & evolution of modern comics section, in contributor Andy Kru's carefully curated comic archive ( It was there I found the Max and Moritz comic by Wilhelm Busch (1865) ( I was charmed by the style of verse and highly entertaining animated drawings. It's got me thinking that I'd like to write Halfland's story in this style of rhyming couplets and choose liveliest frames to illustrate a Halfland storybook.

This particular folk image from the comic got me thinking about making a cellar in the cottage for future episodes!

For those of my comic loving friends, I can recommend the Bug Powder UK Small Press weblog for it's smart artful tastes in all things small press comic and art. ( I especially dug the mention last Monday (8/21) of Stuart Kolakovic's inventive 'A Prince Such As I', micro comic printed as if an vintage 45rpm vinyl single.

I think I'm starting to get it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Part of the third reference sheet for Rana's cottage exterior. Some exciting finds have been added including some killer shots of how to beam the interior ceiling.

Gently back at work, I've been collecting some superlative examples of the building I have in mind over the last few days. This weekend's finds were from the vast and vastly upgraded dollhouse world online, today's added shots of chunky window casement came from an Umbria Italy property rental site. I printed out this ever-burgeoning cluster of inspiring images and wallpaper-pasted them down on another reference sheet that will hang next to the set. I'm all revved up by these.

This shot from a Greenleaf dollhouse kit builder's page made me feel so good about how I'm doing on the cottage. It shows her auditioning a certain roof line in white foamcore before she cuts one out of wood*. I felt emboldened that how I was going about building will work just fine. *note a sliver of the same house, smashingly finished, next to it.

Monday, August 14, 2006

How Do I Do It?!

I use the Post-It Note System™ (joking) it's not really much of a system, I just use hundreds of Post-Its to collect Halfland ideas as they occur to me. I scrawl them down before they leave my head and then stack the category on my desk. When the pile gets a few going, they'll get sorted into type, what character is it for, is it about the film's look/style, maybe it's a technical note such as the best way for me to record sound effects, etc., and then they're filed in large manila envelopes. Where they wait, in inky darkness, to one day be unleashed like a fury upon my creations.

A few notes from over the weekend:

• • glass window panes cut from 1/8" plexi sheets schmered with clear glass paint.

• • print out carved scroll work in small scale, transfer onto soft wood and carve.

• • make wooden corbels out of slices of moulding the width of the various beams.

• • create black soot marks above the cottage candle's wall sconces.

• • make a full teensy tiny mouse house nestled in the treehouse's roots.

• • put mouse nesting material in the corners of the cottage floor.

• • top with a wave-coursed roof of distressed and stained balsa, or similar, shingles.

• • have some of the small tree roots form balcony railing.

• • add bird's nests to tree branches as well as the larger one inside the cottage.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

This Man Does Do Math

Photo of artist Rik Pierce behind one hell of a wonderful Treehouse creation.

I just found friend Ulla's ( post today about amazing dollhouse artist, Rik Pierce ( who makes the most incredible dollhouses I've seen. Dollhouses are one thing, but these are particularly germane to me right now because of how spot on they are for Rana's Halfland cottage creation. And because this man's background includes cartography and life-size, vintage architectural restoration (read: math) his angles dangle properly and his dormer intersects his eyebrows. The photos at his webpages are frustratingly blurry and poor (Ulla grabbed the best, I'd recommend looking there) but the heavy wooden beams of his various cottage ceiling interiors and the integration of house and tree are just about EXACTLY how I'd like mine to end up.

Good timing!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Flipping Out

Flip Clips makes 10, 15, and 30-second long flipbooks out of any digital video digital video formats (including MOV/QT, AVI, DV, MPEG4, MPEG2, Motion JPEG, and 3GPP).

I heard about Flip Clips ( today via a post at Photojojo. I'd heard of flipbook software for years but someone, and likely other companies, have done gone and made manufactured professionally produced books all custom and quick now. Not cheap, at $9 for the smallest/shortest book, I still immediately seized upon this as The Way I'd Like To Promote Or Even Distribute Halfland™.

I now have fixed my mind on somehow producing my eventually finished Halfland scenes in this low-tech, retro, charming form. I would like to see the rich colors and characters of Halfland come to life in hands, without electricity. A couple of downsides would be that here wouldn't be any music, watching each scene in the short burst of individual books wouldn't create much continuity, and if selling as a 12 volume set, even at the volume pricing, material cost would be $72 bucks, which is sure to limit buyers to the diehardiest animation collectors.

Still, when the day comes that the clips are finished, I'll take a look around at the state of the world at that time and see what might be done to make this wish happen.

Update: There are many other companies I see. There's a short motion greeting card that gives the idea here:

Looking around a bit I came across what has to be THE Flip Book resource site ( It's a French site in translation. It's loaded with history, uses, and tons of book animations. Check out the artist book section about 2/3 down the Typology page. And at the bottom, a mention of what has to be one of the all time coolest concepts; A "stamps' plate published by the Maldives to commemorate the 100th anniversary of cinema in 1995. The cut out stamps make a (short) flip book."

Wow. I'm more into this than I was earlier.
Imagine, if you will, A custom designed flipping image viewer like those shown here (from the fabulous French site by Pascal Fouche mentioned above on his Viewers page loaded with Halfland scenes, maybe even with a little red velvet curtain pulled back on the opening of the box style version, like a widdle cinema. I sure can.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

From Inside the House

One of my best friends loves to hang out in Rana's cottage. This is the view from inside. See the open skylight?

At least someone is having something to do with Halfland today!

Action from me coming soon!

Worth pointing out in the meantime, in the last post's comments Jeffery Roche and I went back and forth on the whole "thinking with our hands" technique vs. a more measured method and I thought of a Gehry exhibit I saw last year:

You just reminded me of some 3-D paper sketches by architect Frank Gehry I saw in person last year that looked like nothing more than crumpled paper laying on a backing. I do not mean perfect models made by laborious tedious perfection to scale, no, I precisely mean like crumpled paper. I'm looking for a link to show you.
Found it! This is apparently his initial method of creating buildings.

Then the software people turn the shapes into polygons and voilå, perfect manufactured shapes:

"Gehry began design by building a paper model characterized by irregular, flower-like curves. The design model was then digitized using a Firefly optical digitizing system and the resulting x, y, z coordinates were feed into an IBM RISC/6000 running CATIA. The surfaces were then rationalized in CATIA to achieve repetition without sacrificing form. Using the CATIA database of the rationalized surface models, a physical model was computer milled, compared to the original cardboard model and adjusted where necessary."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I Don't Do Math

Montage of the cottage progress by end of day. Things are moving along.

Another chunk of work. Double yay. The first thing to do was to set about correcting the angles of the little turret top walls. When I posted one of the photos yesterday I noticed that the vertical lines between the facets of the topper's walls were anything but (I corrected yesterday's image digitally but the way it was really can be seen below.) And, people, I do not mean to embarrass my American brethren by stating this admission but... I do not do math. As such I could not begin to calculate the parabolas or other high Euclidean geometry required to handle all the angles, slopes, and calculus of making this little roof loft/room. After trying several of my usual mathematic ape-like work-arounds, I finally gave up (further) and again consciously decided on what my method for creating the set would have to be.

I realized that my technique would be to literally sculpt the cottage out of paper and board. I kept adding smaller pieces with masking tape to shape it around tree trunks and other odd characteristics. It really worked for me. Once complete, the perfected paper structure can be cut into template pieces and reproduced in other materials. The roof for example may become thatch matting or small wooden shingles, perhaps a combo of both. I tried out twigs as window mullions and began to form the beginnings of a porch. All kinds of serendipitous ideas for shooting the film came about through actually beginning to build the set and peering inside,--it's wonderful! Notions and details got fleshed out a bit more as the cottage was filled in further. I added more character to the roofline and raised an "eyebrow" over the bay window. And I finally got the topper how I wanted it, see top pic, far left.

It has been an invaluable activity to embark (hee) on actually making this tree set to scale. I realize I could have worked much of it out in miniature first, or on graph paper, etc. But I guess everyone finds the approach they prefer. Mine is to make a life size model out of paper/board how I want it and then employ other materials to refine the thing in a series of drafts. This is how I do everything, I just didn't see that before today. Perhaps if I did have the capacity to learn math I might have better tools at my disposal for accomplishing things. But I intend to manage, regardless, with whatever tools I already possess.

surprises of the day were the little faces that began to appear in the cottage elements.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Peak Experience

I started in on figuring out how to solve the roof to tree integration dilemma today. It worked out better than I thought and it was a bit of thrill to see the cottage begin to take shape. In the clutter of the workspace you may be able to make out the small wooden planks used to map out the roofs first center peak.

I had a good chunk of time to work on the set today. Yay. Dove in and continued using scrap cardboard taped into place as a first wall template. There was a lot of altering of sizes and placement on the set.

Early into things, I felt unsure about where to place anything and felt illequipped to create the cottage, or any aspect of the film for that matter. In my mind I could imagine spending many months learning about building design and roof construction in order to execute this little set with the knowledge I seemed to require. At that sort of pace, Halfland would be finished sometime in 2023. I felt anxious and overwhelmed for a few moments. And then I decided that in order to get through the project I was going to have to forget all about doing any of this in an educated manner with a grasp on my reference panel's samples. I consciously made up my mind to proceed by the seat of my pants instead and to go ahead and make the cottage, and everything else, strictly as I wished, even if WRONGLY. Gulp.

After that it became fun again and I no longer felt the enervating air of overwhelm. After that insight of the day, Halfland's progress became (for at least a moment) my daily life, moment to moment, inch by inch, rather than a military deployment to be quickly gotten through. I unplugged from the stress matrix for the rest of the afternoon. I am very attached to finishing the entire film and I often worry that I'll be prevented from doing so. But when I can get into this more patient mode, going through the individual steps without my stomach churning into knots, Halfland (or any other project) becomes just part of my daily life, like breathing. I don't worry about finishing "x" amount of breaths in my lifetime.

Seen from inside the front door, Rana, in her soon-to-be cozy, cubby bed, begins her day.

I reduced the width of the bay window and managed to rough in all the walls and the beginnings of a roof line. Looks like hell now, but further iterations will be hugely improved.
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