Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to each and everyone. Maybe with a tiny Holiday vignette frozen in a little glass we might always possess the possibility of having whatever we could wish.

Last year's card was so popular I wanted this year's to be as special as possible. I knew it should be handmade, duh, and an old-style folk toy. I was so nervous about it, I thought of what to make this year on December 26th, 2006 and have been mulling it over the entire year!

I kept searching for the right materials and trying different things that didn't end up working. Some things about this year's came out better than I'd hoped, other things I thought of doing I left off by the end batch in order to get to the real essence of what the cards were about; I wanted them to convey the unforgettable wonder and joy of Christmas morning when everything we could wish for is magically under the tree in the morning, ready to be torn into and enjoyed.

Folk Art Bottle Whimseys, (you know, like ships in a bottle and other puzzle scenes assembled inside old glass bottles?) was the concept this year. It, like so many other obscure things, lives large on the web. A little Googling turned up photos of fantastic examples of these works, by infirmed or otherwise isolated individuals, dating back as far as 1697! Who knew?!

If you haven't yet received your handmade Christmas Bottle Whimsey from us (and you should have by now), please let me know!

Six images that tell the story of how these Bottle Whimseys were made!

Here's how the trees fit into the bottles--Secrets Revealed!
Here's how I wrapped the tiniest present on Earth--Prove that wrong!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Perfect Timing

My Halfland Week turned into Christmas Elven Headquarters as I once again made something too complicated to do in any practical sense. Oh well. I have been having the time of my life doing it when...

Paul and I are sick in bed today with different bugs. His is stomach flu caught on retreat last week. Mine is a cold with joint/body aches that are enhancing the crisis I'm going through from overworking my tendons and joints in doing full blown ballet at my age. I'm moving as though crippled over the last few days. Hoping all of you are well. Got to drag myself over and finish another 50 Christmas cards in a last ditch effort to mail them tomorrow so they'll have a chance of being delivered before the 25th. I've lost two crucial days' work time with the above. So, if they arrive late to you this year, please know they come with our heartfelt sentiment in full.

In a better example of timing, the kind kids over at Photojojo have put together a simple primer today on time laspe that I found really helpful, especially the Photoshop automated batch process tip. I've always wondered how to do that.

Their method is exactly what I will be following the gist of when I film Rachael DiRenna's art for Halfland's Flowering Thoughts sequence.

Here are some photos of flowers in various stages of bloom around my house the other day for Rachael to have as sculpture references. I can't decide whether the flowers should be Narcissus or Gerbera daisy. Rachael, do you have any affinity towards one or the other for this? Red Gerbera Daisy (the all green bud in the daisy group is courtesy the web.)
Paperwhite Narcissus growing in sand filled jars in our bathroom.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Slightly Moved

"The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving." --Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is good to know because there aren't any results yet where I am however my sense of direction is excellent.

I've had my hands flying over this year's Handmade Holiday Card production--once again--even though I started earlier--getting all 100 (!) cards mailed out early next week will be another impossible achievement, achieved yet again. I'll start with furthest away friends and work concentrically localized until I have one left for us.

I've been taking pictures of the progress all along and will post a slide show Christmas week, after everyone reading this that requested to be on the list should have theirs. If you don't, it may be because this year's concept is brave for a "card" so it's a gamble that the postal service will deliver them, but we'll hope and see...

A few days ago I did literally move the entire Halfland main set fully into my workshop, as opposed to it hanging *half* [HA] out invading into our living quarters. Paul is very good about accommodating the project but it was more chaotic than I'd like. The house never looked neat with the set in progress oozing out in greater and greater square footage Plus, now all the whole fun house antics are contained within my work area making it feel very domain/private magical lair like around here.

I've yet to rearrange the worktables and tidy up the zoo, it's tighter, but that will have to wait for next week. I'm on my own for the next 10 days and I'm planning on devoting every waking moment, and then some, to Halfland action.

You know the suffering I'm sure, the pain of working at home perhaps, living within inches of the tantalizing ideas and materials beckoning you to apply your hands to them. The sink in the pit of your stomach when you gaze at all the heaven of fun while other obligations of home and work are requiring you to be elsewhere. The new ideas that continue to pile up on the cluttered, dusty stacks. [...and scene--bow low --wait for applause.]

Yeah, it's a drama like that.

Excitements and photos very soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good Reef!

Added him to the PictoBrowser slide show in the sidebar. (Be sure to keep emailing in your sketches and photos of your Halfland Sea Critters! nobledesign[at]sbcglobal[dot]net)

Lots to say, but for tonight I'll post this little sketch inspired by a little crab I saw in a tank the other day. I saw a particularly spectacular aquarium that gave me a clear view on how to craft the landscape for our undersea set. It will, as with the other sets for the film, involve masses of paper and plaster dressed on natural materials.

Art as my Life Quote:
He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god. --Aristotle

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fowl Mood

I'm in such a foul mood lately. Could be menopause as I am that aged (45). If this mood is only due to peri-menopause then the world had better brace itself in about 10 years.
The good news is that as a result I realized that the Painting Chicken with a face (mine) in Halfland will be in a foul/fowl mood too. Artists are rarely happy with their works. Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rose Red

**MY** Rose Red on the left in a detail of a portrait taken near her home in Pennsylvania recently. Isn't she the most beautiful creature?! Gah! Perfect. On the right is the Russian image from a picture or production that I can't identify but will shamelessly copy for the composition and mood for Halfland's finale.

The lovely Rose Red would be the perfect real person to be cast at the end of the first Halfland series. It's a Dénouement at the very end of the film where we back out of a white fade at the last scene's story and transition into a white fade up on a young beauty playing with simple paper puppet versions of the Halfland characters against a sheer woven curtain for a shadow play.

I'll send her everything ready to shoot at her house, or supply her with the materials and let her create the puppets--IF--that would be in some way fun for her rather than work. Otherwise, she'll get the script and the props in a ready to go box kit. It'll just be a few brief seconds on film, but it will finish the whole concept as beautifully as she is.

I'm hoping to be able to talk her into it! Woo hoo! Internet, I love you.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Grass Roots Sea Change

Thanks for hanging in with me. I am so sorry, I wrote a detailed entry about where I've been--(I just put it elsewhere, sparing you my whining waa waa no time waa waa vet appointments (still struggling with Izzy's skin) woes woe.) but you know, all that is just excuses--I've simply got to make different choices with my time. Doctors check ups for me and Izzy's severe situation notwithstanding, handmade Christmas cards, well, ok, that's seasonal and necessary in a way as we don't buy gifts for anyone. And yes, I did add teaching ballet and private art classes to my skeedooly, so yeah, that along with all the rest would take up my precious time in Halfland. The point is that I miss it in a way that requires I make some even more ruthless decisions concerning taking ballet classes and graphic projects in the new year.

In other news, there's a wonderful MAJOR Announcement to make today in Halfland...
"Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being. Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves."
--Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Some of the prints and cards of her wonderful works Rachael sent to me that I keep now right in front of me here.

Last week Rachael DiRenna, the incredible artist that I posted about loving her half/human/half/plant nature spirit, devic, papier mache sculptures, wrote in the comments how she'd love to help the project any way she could from her home in Pennsylvania. After I picked myself up off the floor, I calmly explained to her that it would be my fondest wish for her to create the Flowering Thoughts depicted in the finale of the first Halfland series. I had that as a secret unspoken thought ever since I'd seen her work-- unbeknownst to me she had thought of being a part of Halfland when she first visited here as well! Oh, JOY!

She's all for it! Saints b'praised! I'm going to sketch for her as much as I saw for these creatures and then entrust them totally to her, and I really do trust her. She sent me other photos of this type of creation she's made in years past that were scary spot on! I'll send her wire/and/or simple armature made to scale for the puppets the Thoughts will grow on, and will answer any questions I can via emails. I may make a mold of her sculpts and cast them with wire inside, or just ask her to create as she's used to with papier mache on wire and animate them for as long as they can take it. I might even animate their growth process with replacement sculpts, montage style. This has all just happened, so these points will be sorted out, beautifully. Misc. images from the pre-rachael 1/2L. Flora and Flowering Thoughts collage, yes, the date on those part human/plant sketches on the bottom is 6/94! There's also Quay Bros. brilliant weeds for their Roundup commercial several years ago and a real photo by Andrea Scher at the SF Botanical Gardens where she spotted this purple orchid (on right) with a real standing gray bearded monk at its center!

The truly unexpected, amazing thing this new arrangement represents is a wholesale shift in Halfland from it being my exclusive playground to more of a communal collaboration with artists of shared sensibility/interests.

This wasn't the first time I'd opened up the creative door to Halfland. Several months ago, I had asked reader from the UK, Ben Stables to create a miniature painting that will be used on the easel of the Painting Chicken character. He's working on that now (yeah, Ben?). (Ben's been a real support here, really paying attention and offering some great suggestions. My payment to him will be some plastic ants I have that he coveted and some other extra art supplies that I think he'll make good use of.) But there's more I can do with this new approach. And this is where YOU come in!...This is the actual completed door prop (second thing made for the films)for the underwater rock entrance to the seas around Halfland. I also have a good selection of shells and coral and sand (I know, glued down) ready to dress the undersea set.
I am opening up this undersea door to Halfland right now and allowing anyone reading this journal, to craft in anyway they'd like, a small sea creature of some kind, fish, seaweed, shellfish, starfish, anything, that will be used in an early sequence of the first Halfland series. It's the scene where Kyra, the black mermaid, takes the viewer off the sand of our earthly shore, beneath the waves, into the sea where she disappears inside an old wooden doorway that leads to the sea surrounding Halfland. All the creatures I receive by a certain date prior to shooting that scene will be arranged on the underwater set and filmed as Kyra and the viewer swim by.The wilder the creatures the better (see my reference collage above for some ideas about color and fun shapes!) No matter how wild your imagination, nothing can beat what nature has really made under our oceans! So go all out. They can be a small school of normal fish with unusual markings or color, just attach them all together with wire so I can animate them as a grouping! They can be a bloated big black and white puffer fish that belches out a smaller black and white checkered fish, and then that one pops out another, and so on. maybe the checkered fish belches out a sea horse that looks like a rook chess piece!! Woo! Go for it! No holds barred.

I'd be honored if you'd consider this. I'll provide the secure mailing address to send these masterpieces to, and the date to have it in by, posted on my sidebar. This is strictly a volunteer effort on your part, although I will make certain to credit you appropriately and appreciatively in the film's crawl. Be sure and provide your complete name as you'd like it to read along with your wonderful creation.

Why am I doing it? Because everyone who makes a fish or sea creature or underwater flora contribution will be saving me the time it would take me to do it, thus bringing Halfland closer to being. And more than that, because opening up this project for others to participate in just feels right. Why should I hog all the fun?! Other opportunities for joining in will be offered as they occur to me.

Additional ACTUAL NOTE:

One of the other developments in Halfland was my realization that the transition from day to dusk will play a more important role in the film. It's already written in that the time of day shifts from late afternoon in Halfland at Rana's cottage when she goes outside to collect Kyra from the stream's banks and brings her inside for tea by the fire. We know that a gentle rain falls as Rana prepares for bed, blowing out the candles and closing the shutters. That's when we notice the Pink Snail lumbering in the fading light with the porch lantern swinging next to her shell home's door.

Now I see that Yanu, the Mothman, will stay near the paper lanterns hanging across the cottage porch and into the tree (seen like the lamps in this magazine ad). I did a Halfland gasp and smile when I grasped that the Moth would be, of course, attracted to such a light!

I bought a few battery operated tea lights that will fit inside the colorful paper lanterns I will make for such a gag. They have on and off switches and last 100 hours. I took one apart for science to see whether I could make it small enough to fit inside the candles in the cottage's overhead chandelier but alas, it was so well made (!) it only came apart in gravel-sized clumps and was destroyed.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Some Frenzy.

Sketching really does help me work details out. Today I found a photo of Bolivian girls who live on an isolated island in a lake (!) carrying sticks home to their fires and I realized the way they had fabric tied around them was the way Rana should transport Kyra into the desert to find help for Tarn. It's the perfect sort of Halfland way of doing things (and makes me wonder whether one gets to Halfland through Bolivia!) The cloth will be wet to keep the fishywench moist and comfortable.

I had planned to get a lot more 1/2Landing done today than I did. I'd like to get a better handle on time but that is one slippery little frog! I did watch Nightmare Before Christmas twice, in increasing awe. I see more wonderful detail in that masterpiece at each viewing. Hats off to Phil Dale and Jim Aupperle and all the talented others that brought their fantastic gifts to that work. The scene of Sally singing in the alley has got to be the most beautifully lighted and performed film, of any kind, made. But I digress.

So much Halfland goes on in my head everyday. It's truly exciting and stimulating and delicious and frustrating. Frustrating because I'm having difficulty getting as much done as I'd like (understatement). I'm sure many reading this can relate, I'm sure the situation is universal. I goad myself into being grateful, that this is not a bad problem to have in life. Yet I have persisted in tantruming all week.

If someone appeared on my doorstep and was at all dexterous I swear I'm ready to enlist them to do some of Halfland. I would enjoy doing it all myself because it is so much fun but I see that time has its strictly finite seeming ways and I had better get on with cooperating with that.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Halloweeeeeennnnn!

Boo, Peeps! This is an actual photo of my current actual studio mascot Spider hungrily about to feed on one of his actual fly victims on Halloweeeeennnn! (nothing in this photo has been staged.)

I'm about to head to the couch for my annual geek fest extravaganza of a screening of Nightmare Before Christmas (yay) and some high quality chocolate (yay)

I put up the tracing paper ghosts around the house the other day and for the first time Paul really liked 'em. Normally he rolls his eyes at my holiday decorations and humors me but this year the wrinkled sheer ghosties flying around the living room were particularly spooktacular.

Enjoy your night, tomorrow is chomping at the bit for an FULL DAY Halfland frenzy! Mmmmmwaaahhaaaaaaaa-a.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

2 Sconces and a Mirror Walk into a Bar

I took a clear plastic food tray scratched up the back and silver leafed it. Then I scraped and sanded through some of the leaf only to then paint over it with black gesso. The result when viewed through the clear front looks like scale antique looking glass. I cut up the plastic and pieced it back together, on top of a heavy aluminium pie tin oval, as a mirror sconce mosaic to amplify the light of Rana's beeswax candles.

The sconces were made out of iron wire, grommets, washers, wooden beads, and more shapes cut from rollededge of the pie tin. You can see the second sconce with a yellow candle on the far back wall of the kitchen (above).

While I had the mirror out, I thought I'd whip together (HA! nothing is ZEDEVER "whipped" together.) the little wooden hand mirror prop that the Birds in Hats characters will quarrel over. I sliced out a shape from 1/8" wood veneer. It was shaped sanded and painted (upper right) but I didn't like how the cabochon setting I was using for the mirror frame needed to be surrounded with more wood.

I built up a shape on top of the base out of a bead of hot glue and 3D paste. It was finished when dry and drilled to hang on a cord by the handle. What's cool about the silver leaf mirror is that it reflects things when they are close but the fall off is fast. This means that a camera directly opposite it can't be seen but brightly colored things like parrots, upper right, (or booze bottles, Mike!) can!

In my search to find my method for shooting Halfland with a vintage lens distortion and patina, I was tempted by the world of Lomography. They sell a TunnelVision macro lens wih the right spyglass look for $75 clams. ok. but what was truly cool is that rooting around the sites there gave me some insight and courage to experiment with optics of all kinds. I grabbed the plastic 35mm film camera I bought in the summer at the 99¢ store for, you guessed it, 99¢! broke it apart (not easy--good job, China!) stole the lens, backed it with foam and gaffer taped it to my silver box. Above* are the results! Uber macro detail (*these are low low res versions, the 7 mb files look amazing.) The items shown are less than 1" tall!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Shot in the Dark

Halfland Video Storyboard Test Clip from herself on Vimeo.Made tiny as a test; tweaked in iMovie... Hmmm, this could be good!
I took my silver box and shot a quickie improvisation of the opening Halfland reveal sequence--in the dark--just to see if it would work. I think this method could be a good way for me to block out the action, puppet/prop placement, and camera moves for the whole film.

Even just making this last night showed me I'm either going to need to hunt down an old dental x-ray arm to mount the camera to or build out of hardware something that moves up and down and swings wildly. Looks like hand held wobble will be my film "style".

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Christmas

I tease you with an indecipherable close up of the 2007 makings.

Yep, it's that time of year here in the Halfland Werk-Shoppe. The official 2007 Handmade Holiday card production is underway. (Reader/friend Ben reminded me I'd forgotten to add this note to my project list.) It turned out that I spent practically the entire day just ordering the supplies for this year's creation! Right now I'm sketching step-by-step plans for how what I ordered will be used to make what I hope will be a delightful addition to all of your homes and hearts.

If you'd like to be included on our card list, you as a reader/friend of Halfland are invited to drop me an email at nobledesign[at]sbcglobal[dot]net with the word "card" in the title and an address to send it to and I'll make sure a card gets made just for you.

(Last year's card slideshow.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Irons in the Fire + Artist Alert: Rachael DiRenna

I beyond adore these Tree Spirit Figurative paper mache sculptures by artist, Rachael DiRennaFound, I just remembered to add, via the darling Rose Red over at Folk and Fairy filled with all the positive beautiful places, people, and fairy folk things that she takes delight in finding in her travels, real and imaginary. Bookmarked!

She's completely captured the delicate anthropomorphized quality I often see in nature. They are fairies. They are plants. They are beautiful. They are just the right amount of almost too subtle and they'll be missed, just like in real nature. I don't mean to imply that I literally "see" fairie folk--but if I believed they actually existed then Rachael's art precisely represents what I sense they look like. I also love how she's using materials that would be wasted otherwise, which is philosophically integrated to her subject. That's so, not just because it's faddishly "green" to use recycled or reclaimed material but because using what is available around you is specifically related to an embodiment of nature such as this.

I will look forward to being one of her proud art patrons in the future, buying up these sculptures (at $195 or so). Until then, I'll satisfy myself with buying cards and prints of them (at very reasonable $8 -10 prices) from her Etsy shop.

Halfland Progress update: Woo. So much has gone on. I'm doing more than ever and so into 1/2L it now clinically qualifies as a full-blown obsession.

Stopped into F&S fabric shop on Pico yesterday and met a wonderful man, Chuck Marso who seemed to really get 1/2L. So much so that he dove into the rooms full of veiling and cut me swatches of very expensive fabrics that may double as lacy spider-webbing. When I asked him about scraps of leather he gave me a great worn leather handbag that I can cut up for Yanu's gear that was going to be thrown out. I gave him a button with this address so he could follow along. I bought a length of fine twig/vine decoration that will make the most deliciously perfect fencing and archway for the Writing Mouse's chalet!

F&S had vintage hats for sale with the most wispy marvelously web like patterned veils. They even sold some vintage veiling, but nothing with the right color or pattern. My new friend Chuck suggested a millinery downtown (California Millinery Supply Company, 721 S Spring St., Los Angeles, CA (213) 622-8746) I look forward to going. Later that day I was volunteering in a kitchen and had to put a hair net on my head. When I took it off I noticed that a common hairnet has exactly the wispy fineness of vintage millinery veiling! I will buy some in gray to use as cottage webs. Their only drawback is the square hole pattern, otherwise perfect. I have the crystal beads for the dewdrops on the webs already. And of course, Time Flies will fall victim to these beauties.

Next post will feature some further action development for the Yanu/mothman character. Think lanterns!

Irons in the Fire (A never before mentioned list of some (some secret) things that have been happening here in addition to Halfland work):
• Izzy to doctors this morning for yet another steroid shot as she's returned to being a bloody raging mess. Disturbing.
• After many hours of logistics and project management, Paul's (and J-R's) new book is at printers on schedule.
• We need to hire a graphic designer to produce fun new print materials with me. Know of anyone that would be right? Please email nobledesign[at]sbcglobal[dot]net.
• I start teaching ballet once a week next week to both an after-school group and a private tutee. (And I'm up to 5 classes/week as a student myself.) Crazy, I know, but it's so enjoyable!
• I have been teaching a private client of Paul's over the last month or so how to be more of the artist she wants to be, coaching her to break the "rules" and demonstrating new techniques and materials to expand her range.
• Hila and I will embark on designing/creating an exciting new product line for children together in January. Emailing ideas and excitement currently.
• My step-father and I are collaborating on developing a creative product I saw him invent when I was a teenager. I always told him he should go further with it. And now that I can design and market, we are doing that together. Isn't that wild?!
• I started making hand-made woolen cat toys to give as gifts. That I'm actually ridiculously thinking of putting up on an Etsy shop of my own on a lark. They're fun and easy to make in idle minutes and any monies would go into buying Halfland equipment.
• Same for the Time Fly puppets, which I'll be making prototypes for shortly and posting.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Stones Coming Conscious

Even the rocks are alive in Halfland.

I went looking for the Time Flies making stash and was delighted to find EVERYTHING I'll need to make killer good fly puppets already in the bag. Literally. Every aspect of 1/2L. has a labeled brown grocery bag and all the bags are each living in their own cubby hole.

Inside the Fly bag I found a little cellophane sack labeled, "Stones Coming Conscious". It held a dozen sculpted, flesh-colored clay "stones" that look as though they have human forms somewhat emerging from their rock shape, heads, shoulders, arms, spines, knees, bodies curled and crouched. I must have made these in the early oaughts.

I love the suface texture with its cracks and lichen, um, I'm lichen' the moss?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Meet the Time Frog ::UPDATE::

A new iteration of the Time Frog's character sketch. This one with the clock face set into the iris of the eye which I think gives a more probable look, if something completely non-plausible could look more plausible. He has a froggy ear now (who knew?) And I'm playing with his texture and color.

Nick H and Mike's naming of the Time Frog's live-in-mouth critters, Musca Tempora (Time Flies) is so brilliant I can't even stand it. That is a classic Halfland play on concept and words--and YOU are coming up with them now! Holy cow.

I had a super wild thought this morning. What if I had fun making little 50 Time Flies like I have in mind, packaged them up cleverly as real-esque scientific insect specimen as I have in mind. Then all the readers and friends of this blog who have contributed notions that have been incorporated into it can receive one as a gift. Anyone else could also have one of their own by purchasing it from a proposed Halfland Etsy.com shop (secure, handmade craft online store) for $25 to contribute to a Halfland camera and lights fund. Not only would they receive an original piece of tiny Halfland puppetry as memorabilia but actually support the film's making. What would you think of that? Good? Bad? Do it? Don't? eh? I'm ambivalent. I want to make 50 flies and sell 'em for fun more than money but I don't want to take away (ironically) my time from building the set to do so.

______ previous post ______

I realized today that I get to build my little fly almost-puppet after all. He'll escape out of the Time Frog's mouth, just as for me irritation sometimes accompanies Time. The offer still stands for any reader of this blog to suggest a suitable name for this character. If a submitted name is selected for use, there will be Halfland prizes awarded.

My first time working on a Desktop Publishing computer, circa 1993, during the giant graphics revolution. I was working in a New York publishing house on an early Mac on a large res file of a frog that was overloading the slight RAM typical of those bygone days. The "processing" icon was a little clock with its hands whirling around telling me it was chewing on the file. The cursor happened to be placed directly on top of the frog's left eye, making it look as though one of his eyes was a clock.


I had been devising Halfland in my mind for a while at that point and in the fertile, moist soil of that creative endeavor the seed had been planted for a vignette.

As we pass by the island landscape in the film, Halfland's Time Frog sits nearly submerged in the fresh water stream that runs down the hill from Rana's cottage. He's a normal Halfland frog except for the fact that his left eye is a vintage clock face, complete with the tiniest hand carved hands (these I have already procured from an antique pocket watch). He is the origin of what we know as time. It all starts with him.

Time is not my favorite thing to deal with. It flies by like a freight train and frequently pushes against my druthers. I want more of it. I want enough of it. And when I have to conform my activities to it I can get pretty bent out of shape. I can find relating to it irritating. I also find flies irritating. The incessant buzzing for no reason, the relentless inexplicable dive bombing at the most vexing of times.

Broke out the visual reference material today. Man, are these envelopes filled with collected treasure of ideas and images. Invaluable. I painted the character sculpt with a practice base coat so I could use him as a stand in as I begin to build his set piece. Tomorrow I'll mock up the cardboard and maybe get a little papier mache ou-hon.

I also painted the legs of the kitchen table and added a drawer front. Tested the new balcony by painting it black with black gesso. Loving it now. That'll work.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Railing in the Night

I'm challenged by creating the little balcony railing and wrought iron pot holders for the Maus Haus chalet. I've made a few attempts, one failure shown on left. I'm currently making an even smaller design, on right, that will be finished to a rusted iron black.I've built dams for concrete to perma fix two roof beams on Rana's cottage. A few weeks ago, I tried to cement them in position but found/learned that even anchor cement doesn't stick at all. Good for pouring into the ground to secure posts, but has no ability to stick one thing to another. Who knew.

Featured Cool Find
Fantastic writer/artist/blogger, Alicia Paulson mentioned a book series by Jill Barklem called Brambly Hedge (teaser clips downloadable there) which I'd never heard of before. Turns out to have been made into a truly inspirational stop motion animation series by some of the best people. They took Jill's charming English countryside characters and created three-D puppets and set them in pop-up illustration-like backgrounds.
Project Pedigree: HIT Entertainment, a company that develops animated film versions of established children's classics approached the book series' publisher, HarperCollins. They hired the highly successful animation production company, Cosgrove Hall Films. They in turn hired Bridget Appleby, for its production design and artistic direction, the models and props were made by the great Mackinnon & Saunders.

Tomorrow's Plan: I'm going into the The Time Frogs setting tomorrow. Starting to construct his sunny stream side lair out of cardboard and masking tape.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

I Stopped at 1,000

I unfortunately found this new fantastic feature at Blogger. It's a live feed of public images as they are posted to Blogger blogs from around the globe. I'm often moved to tears by pageants of humanity's experience like this. All of it, the tender and the grotesque, at some point of objectivity, it all melds into a single joyous weeping.

I watched for a moment or two, marveling at people's compelling random travel pictures of places I will never see in person, blurry snapshots of beloved babies, bowls of food full, and then down the line empty, gorgeous examples of really good art/photography, and sadly proud photos of really bad crafts, all of it strung like beads on digital thread. Each image important to somebody, even if it is just the old exercise bike they're are hoping to sell.

What I didn't expect was how valuable the stream of collective images turned out to be for Halfland! I had to stop the flow several times, click back and retrieve a useful image to add to the 1/2L. visual reference collection. Nice to have them. It occurs to me, and why I'm mentioning it here, is that a shared pool of images, relevant to us communally as humans, that we would have never had reason to search out or chance on otherwise, can be a momentous resource for visual projects such as this.

I'll visit it again, but limit each session to no more than 1,000* for my real life's sake! I'm going to call this technique Image Combing. *I can set the speed of the playback to pretty fast and whip through a combing session in a about 10 minutes.

If you try it I hope you'll let us know how it works for you: Blogger Play

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Break In

Mr. Thumbson busted into the Maus House Stalaag 13 style. He tunneled in! A benefit of building a set out of cardboard and newspaper balls under papier mache is that I can cut into it from underneath. I gutted the underside like a pinata in order to arrange a strand of miniature lights inside. These are a bit faint, nice for lantern glow but I may need a bit stronger light to show up on camera.

Today I finished the wooden door, don't laugh but the key hole works and the knob turns. The Maus has a good stack of fire wood sheltered from the weather. The corbels were finished and installed. I started to build the base for the balcony and attached (with great difficulty) the storm shutters. I need them to open and close but there's no way to drill into the stones where the hinges need to attach. Right now it on with glued fabric that I plan to cover with another square of copper. I pickled the exterior with special white stain because it was bothering me that a lot of the detail was blending into the tree too much. Might knock the white down a bit more with ink.

Monday, October 01, 2007


It's almost as if you're here now with my new spiffy Halfland Documenatrious Digicam. Welcome! Notice the soot build up on the tree above the chimney?
Here we go with a tiny cottage building catch up. Below on left are the clear contact paper stencils used to create a folksy Alpine pattern on the wood slats. The first attempt failed because I used red acrylic paint touched up with a white paint pen. It looked sloppy and all wrong. I painted it out with a fresh layer of cream paint and instead rubbed on the design with red oil pastel through the stencil with the pad of a finger. When the stencil was peeled back there was a far crisper pattern and looked just the right amount of a worn inlay. I applied several coats of clear flat wax aged with walnut ink after that to fix the pastel for a woodsy flat finish.

The new camera has a decent macro mode that was able to capture the smallest detail on the door plate and storm shutter latch hardware. Check out that keyhole! The door plate is pounded copper with jewelry finding nailheads. The keyhole is a smashed, pierced, and shaped gold micro eyelet, the size of a sesame seed. The apple seed-sized glass doorknob was made out of a copper tack topped with a drop of diamond glaze surrounded by a circle of hole-less clear micro beads. The iron latch actually works on the inside of the storm shutters but they'll be shown opened out at some point in the film, when the Maus retrieves a bottle of ink from his soon-to-be iron balcony. On the right are the shutters closed up tight.

Below is the tiny Tudor window with its raised painted net leading. Three terra cotta pots in wrought iron holders will finish off that window. For scale, the top beam is actually a bamboo chopstick. On the left, I'm showing where the corbel will go when they are defined further and stained.
In addition to finishing the wooden door, the balcony filled with ink bottles and quills, and pot hangers, still to do to complete this time consuming sucker is to chop a supply of tiny fire logs and stack them under the long eave on the right side of the house, finish the trail and garden, including a tiny twig archway and fence. That should be it.

Gear Details:
Camera specs: I went to Bel Air Camera in Westwood because they were supposed to have expert staff and an up to date selection, which they did. I wasn't there to tax them yesterday however as I was out for the least expensive small silver box I could find. I'm happy to have paid $159 for a Nikon Coolpix L12 7.1 megapixel. It's super easy to use coming from the 950 and has new features that are a vast improvement over my beloved broken friend. Some things are still crazy like the unbelievably flimsy silver-colored plastic battery compartment cover that seems to ache to break with the lightest touch. I give that thing two weeks before I'm back to keeping the latch closed with a rubber band. However, for the purposes of recording and sharing the progress here as well as serving to capture images for personal art this new little friend is wildly fun. (It'll even take a burst of video.) The still image files are much larger and sharper than before but I'm still converting copies of them to gifs for use on the web, reducing the file size to about 200k each, as per usual. Click to enlarge them as always. Do they look ok or better at all?

Hold Still: I also grabbed a smallJoby Gorillapod flexible tripod for $21.95 as I've been lusting after one for a couple years. It's so much easier to get the shot! I can wrap the legs around a tree branch for a bird's eye view! It's rubber-tipped Lockline plastic 360º ball joint essentially, except it holds its position much better. I'm going to try to animate it to see if it's worth getting more to use as puppet armature.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stand by for Proper Photos

This cottage is coming out so wonderfully that I want to bite the purchase bullet and get a little digi camera to get back to showing the daily progress here. So much has been going on that I've not been able to share.

The eave painting took two tries, but the second attempt really worked. I'll detail what materials made the difference. There have been pea-sized terra cotta flower pots filled with red geraniums to hang outside the successfully-scaled tiny Tudor window. I bought a set of micro lights that I'll be attaching to the cottage interior to make for cozy night time illumination. So heartwarming, that image. Peels of light coming from underneath the front door, with it's handmade moulded glass doorknob! Oh yeah, lots to show!

I've also worked out the shot sequence for the Halfland reveal. We follow the maus up the hilly trail to his house, all the details come into focus as we approach. At the door about to turn the iron key, we notice Rana's giant hand encouraging the mouse to come closer to her. The camera/our POV swings around slowly, uncovering the fact that Rana is not a woman as we assume. As the full composition of the set comes into frame we see from her crouched position that her legs are that of a goat's and that her cottage is dramatically larger than the maus'.

I've also been picturing the Time Frog's micro scene too.

Image story boards, using the sculpts, to follow.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Three Faces of Eaves

OOOooo, pushed some long hours and finished Paul's book, now back to Happy Halfing! I had a brain wave for how to get the stenciled decoration onto the tiny mouse house's roof overhang. I took newspaper to the house and cut out two pretty exact-sized strips, one to fit each side of the overhang, or eaves, let's call it. Yeah, that's it, eaves. Right, I measured these strips pretty exactly and then re-sized and simplified in Photoshop with the photocopy filter, the actual art, off the actual image, of the actual building, onto those pretty exact strip sizes. The results are pretty exact-to-size printed templates that I can cut out of sticky film, such as clear contact paper, and use to paint said ornaments onto my eaves scaled pretty exactly. Cool.

I also stopped into a great old style model train shop yesterday in hopes of finding something small that I could use to make a little wrought iron railing for the Maus' balcony. The fella who knew everything in the shop, looked for quite a while and actually came up with this little N scale hairpin fence out of plastic for $3.50 that I was happy to buy and have been abusing with mangled modifications and paint ever since. It'll work though. Thanks, Sam! (A George Pal fan)

Whilst there, I picked up some fab landscaping materials from the German, Busch Modellspielwaren, a big 'ol roll of their Gelande Teppich Extra hoch grass mat in wildgras meadow, actually. It was pricey, $28 bucks, but I can stretch it far and it will really add a lot of realism to the root area of the tree, where a great deal of story action takes place. Added some Woodland Scenics field grass, course turf in soil, next-size-up stones from what I usually find in floral supply shops, and dark green underbrush to the 1/2L. nature arsenal.

I've also finished paving the chalet's stone chimney. And, in the most inspired misappropriation of objects to date, I found a diamond-shaped square mesh net bag with the precise scale of the upstairs tudor window. I'll paint it rusted/black and adhere it when dry to a piece of clear plastic food tray, cut to size, using clear window paint. Taaa Daaa.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Plastered the timbers and rocks into the little cottage. Glad I did it, it's going to be cute. Added the beginnings of stone edged flower beds and log stairway on the dirt path leading to it up the hill. (Pencil included for scale, Pencil... Writing Mouse. Get it?) Definitely going to paint the roof overhang with designs as shown in previous post. That way, when the camera approaches the house with the Mouse we'll see this great detail. (photo taken webcam on loan from Darkstrider.)

From the character development department
I'm continuing to blend human forms with the creature's animal nature even further. Evidenced by this further sketch for the Yanu Moth Man character. I'm thinking of changing his previously human flesh color to match whatever wing color I choose. Another addition is that his body will be marked with real wing patterns. I always knew Yanu would have a tattoo of some kind because part of him is based on the 5,000 year old ice man, found frozen in the Caucasus mountains was it? They believe he was simply traveling through the mountains as was common in that epoch and was overtaken by severe cold and remained preserved through all the centuries. I remember he had fur and leather straps still on his body and strange bar markings on the back of his legs. Yanu's butterfly wing markings on his skin are not meant to be tattoos, more like naturally occurring insect patterns on his skin. I like the ornamentation for him.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Timber! Looking Asconce

The tiny cottage is stripped down to the bone, taped off, ready for a slather of plaster over the stones and newly installed Tudor timber in the morning.

I bought two wittle dollhouse candle sconces and some other handmade glass items ($1.69, Darice Timeless Minis; Taiwan) with real glass hurricane chimneys and a disk that can be mirrored with silver-leaf (to amplify their candlelight.) I plan to install them on each side of the hollow/oven/fireplace on the tree. Their scale isn't big enough as they were, but I plan to build appropriate-sized bases for them and add a larger glass container under the hurricane glass that can hold either lamp oil or pillar candles. (barely seen mock up, to the left of the store bought sample.

Lots been happening in Halfland; finishing some important print projects, Beginning to design my first website, gave my first specially tailored artwork workshop over the weekend for a couple that turned out to be very successful, etc. But still snuck (a more naughty past tense of sneaked) and working even further on the Maus Haus.

I could have called the mini cottage good enough but there's just *that much* more I could do to make it sing as the cutest thing. I'm going for it.

Also tomorrow, I plan to mix a cup of anchoring cement up and pour it into the fissure I made in The Hub. I was testing the assembly of the roof beams and found that the wiggle it takes to insert them was damaging the regular plaster. The hardier cement should work, if not, I can dig it out and use expandable canned foam (the kind that I've used to seal the gaps around our home's windows) Once sealed, it would perhaps help to be a more flexible material like that.

Art is LIfe Quote:
"When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take -- choose the bolder."
--W.J. Slim

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lubbin' the Hub

Update: The plaster hub shown here ultimately failed, not strong enough to withstand use. Have resorted to bold use of hardware instead. Search the blog for "Roof" (upper left corner) for new developments. Thank you for visiting. SN 11/09 Don't ask me how I knew this would work. Having my hands work with my mind standing by watching is the answer. This afternoon I wrapped each of the roof beams in thin plastic wrap as a release agent, mixed a good batch of plaster to a whip cream consistency and slowly poured it into the papier mache box hub at the top. When curing I removed the tube support that was holding the peak up and let the plaster harden that way. Once done I pulled the beams out gently and removed the plastic from them. Now I have a custom "lock" that securely holds the roofline precisely where I want it and yet allows total flexibility for disassembling the roof in whole or in part! Brill.
I also re-worked the cottage's front porch. I re-shaped it with curves and extended it over and into the tree roots for more interactivity between tree and house. I taped pieces of card board together to make the pattern. This will be used to create the exact shape in wooden slats. More cedar lathing strips glued together I think! Back to the Deeps, Home Deeps.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Answer, the Corbel

Thankful to have the Darkstrider Patrol of Joy Webcam to use *and* I can't wait to photograph how cute this little cottage looks with something that can capture even better light and detail.

Stole a few minutes to craft the little hausey. I tinted the sanded walkway and the face of the house with my favorite thing, diluted arcrylic paint and watercolor. I had my first successful Dremel© experience and carved little wooden corbels to support the porch cover, seen far right, got the webcam up real close, under the roof overhanging slats. I carved groovy grooves and notched the mini shutters, which are about the size of a quarter when put together. The house measures 5" (12.7cm) exactly from floor to peak. Painted the chimney white with rusted iron chimney pots on top.

Next time, the door, hardware; hinge and latch for the shutters, and a little garden.

On the slats seen above right, I may be painting a detail like the one seen here on the lovely historic Culver Hotel in Culver City. I pass by this beautiful building often when I'm out and always love the way the roof overhang is decorated. The only other example of such an ornamented overhead detail I know of are the wonderful painted animals decorating the beams featured in Citizen Kane. (image grabbed off a travel site).

Monday, September 10, 2007

Haus Headway

Small Progress is being made on the Haus du Maus.
Tasha came by today and made further great progress on her model house. She wants to come tomorrow and next week as well! I hope she does because this house of hers is so wonderful, I'd love to see her get it all done and have a little art opening for it where her mom works. If she does continue to come here to work, I'll have to stop hovering and "helping" as I have been so that I can get my own work done! She's rolling with her project now, well under way, I can let her go to it by herself... but it is so fun to watch!

I've finished shingling the tiny Writing Mouse house. I've given it a Cape Cod-ian stone half-facing, beams, roof joist ends, and a cemented sand pathway to the door. Still left is to finish the chimney and add corbels to the porch cover support. It'll need landscaping and a garden archway made of curved twigs. Handmade door, shutters, and windows too. A tiny railed balcony upstairs, overflowing with paper, inks, and flower pots will complete the exterior.

I don't know why I'm devoting time to this little element at this stage. I need to get back to bigger blocks of time spent doing more bang-for-buck chores. Although, I did hold my nose and dive into cementing the stem joins on the tree while I had the tub of Flexall open for the little cottage. I was delighted to find it was far easier than I had imagined! I didn't tint it first or trim the hot hotglue on the clusters. I just painted the whipcream-like fluff right over where the branch and leaf stems meet. It was like painting a tree into form. Like using a brush to create a 3D tree in the air, I can't explain it. It was fun. It is time consuming though. It took about 30 minutes to cover two or three branches worth on all sides. I still have to paint them over when they are dry. But all in all, a whole lot less crazy than I thought it would be.

When I was last at the mailbox I picked up a surprise package from The Scarlet Stars for my birthday last week. Sven wrote about his experience at the recent PLATFORM animation festival and I was intrigued by his descriptions of the many ingenious installations there. Now I have a dvd of the Lightning Doodle Project to watch and enjoy in addition to an original b-day drawing by Sven and a very special two-gocco screen "Letters" print from Gretchin.
Big thanks to Sven and Gretchin and everyone else for the happy wishes!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

TashCam 2000

Today (and next Monday) were set aside for my young friend, Tasha to visit and enjoy doing some art for herself. She started a fun project here over two years ago (as seen in lower left corner!) and was every bit as excited still to pick up the project today. When she started this, she looked like a pretty little girl but the young woman who came to visit today is a total knock out! It's a Gigi moment.

She's making a wonderfully creative, model designer house in impeccable, imaginative detail! (A sampling of rooms above) This thing is soooo cute! (I HAVE GOT to hook her up with the masterful model set maker Hila!) She cleverly re-purposes things for the miniature rooms, like a seashell as bathroom sink complete with a flattened grommet drain! Be sure and make out the hand-made red wire coat hanger on the heart-shaped peg in the kid's room, lower right) It's pure delight to watch her "problem solve" to create the things she needs. An old khaki sweater become the second floor's Berber carpet when stapled on a board. Pretty patterned papers become adorable wallpapers when glued on with stickflat glue. She's so into it... her enthusiasm is catching.

IN HALFLANDIAN NEWS: I've continued to work on the Maus Haus, making and adding three ADDITIONAL batches of micro shingles! Yeesh. Planning to plaster the facade and create the garden gate and pathway to the front door in the next few days.
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