Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Really Up a Tree

Up in the tree, adding more newsprint and masking tape bulk to the tree's armature.

Today I continued adding branches to the tree, making it even better. I'm really happy with the size and feel of it now. Woo, I just swung around to look at the set and saw the most amazing oblique lighting effect from the setting sun falling across it. I never would have come up with slanting a rose-colored light from that angle and now I'm even more excited to have the set finished and to play with filming it.

I've swept up the bark on the floor, laid down drop cloths all around, and assembled all the serious papier maché goods. I'm ready to fly at this thing at the next opportunity. (I've got a presentation on a new print item this Monday and working on it ahead of Sunday night 11:00 pm might be nice.)

A Small Act tomorrow though...

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I Could Do This All Day, Wait! I Did!

It doesn't look to me from this photo like two full day's work was made on this tree, but that's what it was. This isn't the best angle to show the difference either, but it gives the idea of how the relative height was added to the tree without cutting what had been already built. I added about three new heavy branch armatures to the middle as if they grew up out of the existing trunk. That added about a foot in height to the top and gave and impression of more height overall somehow. I hope to be able to show how it all looks when covered in its first coat of brown paper from another angle to really demonstrate how much more pleasantly substantial this larger tree looks compared to the final cottage size.

It might have been clever to start with a scale drawing of the characters, then build the cottage and the tree per a calibrated blueprint. But this is an "eyeball" kind of project. It started by building a fireplace broom. That was the first item in Halfland. I cut the bristles off of a real broom and fashioned my miniature, complete with soot on the bent ends and red string stitching at the base. Then came the apples and the rest of the tiny food stuffs and a few other props and pieces of furniture. The food sizes came from the broom size, the character sizes came from the food sizes, the cottage came from the characters, the tree then had to be enlarged to complement the cottage. And so it went.

I really got into doctoring the tree branches the last two days, adding newspaper and tape to bulk up thin spots and make the twigs look more like natural grown branches. I got in a groove that felt peaceful, as if I was creating a real tree at nature's own patient pace. That's in large part what this project is for me, the creation of a world.

Next moves: include, papering the trunk and landscape base, and painting on a flexible plaster compound onto the entire branch and trunk structure. This can be textured, painted and finished to my liking before I begin hand-placing, what, about 5,000 leaves?

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Crowning Achievement

This is the tree this morning, THE BEFORE PICTURE. After last night's post, I kept feeling that the pretty tree was a bit "squat" and short in proportion to the cottage so I asked Himself for another opinion. (I'd like to tell you that I figured out what to do by myself but, alas, no, it was him again.) I showed him the reference images of trees and cottages I had and we both agreed the tree should be a bit taller for the right effect. I grabbed a saw and started in slicing away where the branches sat on the trunk. It's a good thing I stopped work for the day right then to watch an old movie. In the opening scene of 1930's "Making Whoopie" there was the perfect rustic cottage next to its tree. We froze the tape and compared proportions. That's when I realized what Hims had been suggesting earlier as a way to make the tree taller without butchering it. I didn't get what he meant at first, to add a taller crown up from the middle of the existing trunk, kind of like putting a giant flag pole on a 30 story building rather than trying to add a couple floors in at the 20th.
I worked on it today (all day) and it turned out great. I went to my supply of various twigs collected from wind storms and tree trimmer's trucks, grouped a bunch together, and took a little more care to join the thinner branches to the base by slicing away excess thicknesses of both before joining with hot glue. I'd like to take the After shot in the morning of my now much more complementary duo. This is just to show the papering from last night and the begginings of adding the indoor tree roots. I got very clear today that this isn't a house made out of a tree. Hush! Banish the thought from your mind! No, this, this is clearly a house with a tree growing in it. Got that difference? (There'll be a quiz at some point.)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Good Thing I Like My Hands Gooey

Tonight I used the thick, brown, kraft paper dipped in liquid starch to further paper over the new trunk shape inside the cottage, including incorporating a small wooden cabinet for the kitchen as part of the tree. The thing about using the heavy paper is that the layer, once dry, is far tougher than even 3-4 coats of newspaper/magazine ever could get. Postal paper rules, with more set building bang for the buck.

Tomorrow: Onward to papering the new trunk and landscape on the outside of the cottage. I'm also percolating a way to make the roots rise up from inside the cottage floor, like giant, real trees do when they push up through cement sidewalk tiles. I thought of that tonight, recalling one that Himself and I saw while out walking today. A nice embellishment I think. Me like.

Night. More Pix Mañana

Saturday, January 27, 2007

In Da House

I finished laying down a layer of masking tape over the mesh shapes last night. Today I took a look and saw that some reshaping was in order before laying down the papier mache. I added crumpled newsprint into areas that were too deep and took away new tree growth to better flow inside and out of the house. After I go back and forth with paper on the tree and plaster on the walls the tree will look well grown into the house and vice versa.
I keep checking whether I've got the scale right on the set. I use the apple as my scale guide and ask myself whether the cottage could be made smaller (no, it really is the right size and can't do without any of the areas, sitting room by fire, bed alcove, food kitchen, bay window seat.) I wonder whether I should cut the tree off at the branches and raise it up about 10 inches or so to make the tree larger in relation to the house. My decision is to go forward as is. I can't picture how it will look when all finished with roof and leaves. I'll find out. It did help a lot to widen the trunk.
Sitting in the cottage to get at areas inside feels funny, like Alice in Wonderland after eating the cake or drinking from the bottle, I can't recall which. I feel like Alice when she grows larger than the white rabbit's house and she's forced to stick her arms and legs out through the doors and windows.This is the brilliant paper pop-up artist Robert Sabuda's version of Alice in my predicament.

The really big news: For those that haven't discovered it yet, our favorite model construction artist, Hila Rosenberg Arazi has launched her very first blog this week! Maneria affords those who love beautifully detailed tiny worlds insight into how this rare talent thinks and works. I can't wait for more of her postings!

Friday, January 26, 2007

On a Roll-----ba-da-bum!

I found last night, that the papier maché wouldn't stick well enough to the wire mesh, not enough surface area to grab I guess. So, today I started laying down a layer of masking tape everywhere there was mesh as a base for the starchy kraft paper to adhere to tomorrow. It makes it so much easier to see the new shape of the tree when it's covered in opaque tape vs. the wire form. I really love the way the tree looks now merged into the house walls and made a bit larger around.

On a tool note, does anyone know the knack for using masking tape? Is it me, or does everyone only usually peel off little triangular slivers of the tape no matter how fresh the roll is? When I get a roll to peel well in lengths longer than an inch, it's like I'm getting away with a crime and I have to move fast before the roll figures it out!

Pix mañana

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pay Pee Yay Mash Shay

It was a larger-than-smaller task done today. I used various metal meshes, including aluminum rain gutter guard (which sculpts softly, holds beautifully and is cheaper than art form mesh.) to add thickness to the tree's trunk. I used foam pipe insulation as a base shape for roots. I molded the shape of the tree and its roots over the two wall panels that emerge from either side of the tree to blur the line between the tree and the cottage. That's the "half" part of making Halfland. Things are neither entirely one thing or the other. It is a tree/house.

I started in on covering this new construction with papier maché toward the end of the day. I ended up sitting in the middle of the cottage surrounded by torn scraps of brown kraft paper and a tray of pure liquid starch, shaping the strips onto the forms as the sun set. It was hard to get in and out of there, once in, so I just kept pasting, even as the dusk light grew dim and my radio batteries ran out. Me, in the dark, in the silence, in Halfland.

Bonus Art Today: Some sweet friends were pleased enough with receiving one of the Christmas card puppets this year that they gifted "Hims" and me with a really wonderful wooden puppet, who now lives happily in our paper craft werkshop. Our thanks to them for it is a hand-watercolored, paper, working replica of the toy. It was my first time adding a string mechanism to a puppet's long limbs so that they flail up when its leads are pulled! A very fun thing to make!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

smallish task

I didn't understand the value of the "small task" approach Paul mentioned in his post yesterday. I certainly didn't understand how a project such as this could benefit from 5 minutes of work. It seemed nonsensical to me.

But then I caught Mike's enthusiasm for the concept and resolved to give it a try today. All day my hours were eaten up as usual but tonight at 9:30 when we got home from class tired, I announced I was going to do a "small task". Paul was happy to hear that.

I fired up the ol' glue gun, got crumpling up paper to build up the landscape around the cottage, put on the leather gloves and scrunched chicken wire around the tree trunk to fatten it up. To my surprize, it really felt great to make some progress, even small progress, rather than the daily sucking roar of a giant vortex of guilt I generally feel when yet another sun set on my day with nothing done at all.

So, yay. This, along with my new found "my way" approach, is working very well indeed. I'm hopeful for some real advances coming down now.

I've got an early wake up call in the morning and plan to take some time to progress the papier mache on set. Pix mañana.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Rude a Men Tree

I worked all day Saturday on the cottage set. You may not see much difference but let explain what was done. I took off all the wooden dowel pins off the bottoms of all the wall panels. I then screwed in long zinc screws into the spots where the dowels were. Then I hacked off all the heads of the screws, thus now the panels have strong metal pins to slide into the set floor. I found that the panels leaned when in the holes. I figured out that the 1/4 inch ply the set set is made from isn't enough thickness to hold the pins snugly upright. I hot-glued blocks of wood to the underside of the set and drilled holes all the way through them. Then I made rudimentary wooden links to brace each panel against the next. I realize as I type this that I could have chosen to use large bolts and nuts and created actual tiedowns for each panel, which is tempting. However, now that this is already done and seems sturdy and serviceable, I'll keep it as is. At least it will be faster to pull a dowel, swing the hinge over, and lift up a wall panel, probably with one hand, if needed. Next up: Adding more foam roots to the tree and then papier mache over it and the two walls that flank it.

Welp, that was good. Saturday I indeed got down to boogie with the project and really popped a cherry. It never fails that there is a very solid reason for my not progressing with projects. When I force through the inertia and really begin again, sure enough the reason for the inactivity becomes self-evident. It's hard! I spent the first several hours scowling and whining up a storm, "I don't know how to do this!", "I don't know what I'm doooooinggggg", that sort of thing. Hims made me a trough of coffee and a gave me a sweet treat to get me rolling. He tried to get me to see how lucky I was, that my problems were non-existent. It didn't work. I must be a genuine brat deep down. But then I got some perspective.

It was cold, as it has been, and a Free Range (aka homeless) fellow that we hire for odd jobs was happy because he was booking into a local SRO hotel and would be able to stay out of the rain and cold Saturday night, plug-in his second-hand electric blanket and have a hot shower with some gift bath wash. But I don't think he made it, as some of the people whose cars he had washed left without him catching them for payment. That did the trick for me though. Quit being a wussy, Shelley, get on with this.

It seemed after that I got a hold of things and persisted in my theoretically enjoyable, creative tasks. More importantly, I found my inner gonads. I know what I'm doing with this. All the way through. The film in every aspect. I guess I dropped trying to do it right and just found a way to do it my way. Doing all the things required to make this film my way is completely within my grasp. I know how I want to do this. I know how.

After that things went very well. Slow, but very well. The slow pace is fine with me as long as I'm moving it forward at all.

Mike Brent suggested that if I were able to drive myself to work on Halfland the way I did for our Christmas cards, I'd be doing really well. I think what made me work on the cards was the firm date of the holiday approaching. I can re-negotiate myself on other projects forever but Christmas is December 25th period. And as Sven Bonnichsen pointed out, I'd do well to have the skosh more organization that a production schedule would provide. It would need to be a real schedule though, not my self-imposed end-of-the-year one that came and went undone. I need real date goal for this. Not a crazy rushed one, something doable, but really there.

And I'm proud to introduce, the best friend I could ever have, one so incredible I could never even have dreamt one this good, a man who loves and supports me in this absolute craziness, in his first ever blog experience, my husband, Paul Kaye, (aka, Ullyses?)Notes On Notes From Halfland

Thursday, January 18, 2007

And yet more NOTES!

A. This wonderful forest image has been processed with a technique calledOrton Imagery and its lovely, milky, diffuse, painterly quality is what I'll be going for throughout the Halfland scenes. I know how to get this look through a series of Photoshop channel operations and blending modes on layers but will have to figure out a way to batch process the frames with a consistent result. In the meantime, I'll be practical lighting and soft filtering to assist that look along while shooting.

B.I imagine the Time Frog character reveal to be in a setting like this. He won't do much moving except the antique clock hands moving around in one of his eyes. He is the source of time itself.

C.I found this great shot at Ulla's blog series on Gypsies this week. It is a raised bed at the back end of a gypsy caravan wagon and precisely what I was envisioning for Rana's bedroom inside the cottage. It's uncanny how spot on this is; the alcove with a window, the high bed. Rana's bedding is even richer and layered with straw and cattail fluff. And her pillow is a fabric cuddling caterpillow.

D.This gorgeous photo of chickens is by Jen Grey. The colors really inspire me for my Painting Chicken supporting character.

E.This door detail is from one of Hila's sets, The Bad Boy Room, and is a great example of the quality wood work detail/feeling in Rana's cottage that I'll be striving for.

F. I'm going pretty storybook with the cottage now, some Tudor detailing, some things less time specific. In all my analysis of how to make a house, I've decided that I can do anything I want with it and it'll be fine. This is a creative process after all.

G. Wattle and Daub, extended bay windows, gabled roof lines, whatever, however I choose. The surrounding fence and greenery shown here hit the mark. Perhaps those shrubs will be where I'll put the Teacup Roses, a rose bush where finely painted porcelain cups and saucers grow.

Take Note: Himself is up to here -..- with the actual, um, inaction in Halfland lately and has determined that this Saturday is to be Halfland Day©, all day, with a post posting of the accomplished Halfland Day©'s work to be made on Sunday afternoon.

He has also just announced the launch of his own new (and first ever) blog, Notes on Notes from Halfland (I'm not even joking.) It's something he's been meaning to do for months, as he has a lot (or at least something?) to say about this project and how I go (or don't go) about getting it done. The man likes progress and knows how to make it happen, in a relaxed way. So there's that we can look forward to as well!?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Notes--Actual NOTES!

A. I found a way to integrate Tarn, the crow woman's, clothing over her naked human half and the black crow feather half on this (now inverted) image of a embellished sheer gown on a magazine. Her skin will show through the sheer base of the dress and yet be covered where I'd like with laces and feathers that will blend into her feathered crow body.

B. There is a chicken with a human face, painting at an easel, in Rana's yard as we pass by. And now after seeing this REAL chicken, it will also be wearing a knit scarf!

C. The Time Frog, sitting down by the river should wear a snail as a hat, don't you think?! This also is a REAL shot! (Both images found while enjoying a site called

D. After wondering what I wanted to do with Rana's horns, to have them, not to have them, what shape, where on her head, etc. I have decided to follow this ancient Iranian artifact of a goat. It hit the bell finally.

E. Rana's cottage should have the kind of feel that this old engraving does. And I'm digging the halos above their heads and may add a disk unto my Urhu, the sage character.

F. This is a photo of a prized EARLY vintage cinema that I would LOVE to have Halfland scenes shown on one day. Maybe a copy could be made. I will 'speriment when the time comes. One never knows.

Two other ideas came to me for Halfland recently;

One was that when Tarn transforms at the film's climax, her black black wings should transform to white as she rises.

The other was that the Serpent Musician, Urhu, who is more than half snake, should not be like a man in height but should move along the ground as if only one foot high. I got this idea while grocery shopping. I was passed by a tiny little woman, grown small with age, whose head was only as high as the shopping cart handle. It caught my attention that she was perfectly suited in form to her task. And that was enough for me to cut Urhu down to size, or rather to lower his vertical stature.

Having worked well and completing my design assignment for the moment, I'm going d o w n now for a day or two with my time. On the flipside I plan to see you with a schedule/plan for the next few production steps. Knowing that Halfland is a massively huge production, I won't worry about the total time it will require to complete. I'll just take a bite and see what can be done.

Thank you so much for visiting!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Animation from Argentina!

Alejo makes magic on Vimeo

Lookie what just arrived from animator Alejo at Ale Stop Motion in Argentnia, it Webster's whimsical little jolly jig!

Me and Him LOVE IT, Ale! Thank you!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year To You!

Cloud helped me with the pine and incense cypress greenery for decorations I was asked to make last weekend. It took a long day to shop downtown, prepare and put the elements together to be installed over the large buffet that would soon be filled with hand-made delicacies by Claudie Botté, the talented French chef hosting the new year's event menu. The second image gives the closest feeling of how pretty it turned out. I bought shiny shiny glass silver balls, embellished twig balls, and wrapped larger Styrofoam balls with layers of ice blue and aqua organza, topped them all with luscious green-blue-ocean, silver, and hazel-green colored ribbons. It doesn't show in the photos but the feeling ended up like being in a winter forest with soft, pretty, traditional style touches, some made out of natural elements. Plain wooden numbers in the center were painted in a matching daiquiri acrylic and highlighted with rub'n buff silver on the chiseled highlights. Matching layers of sheer, voluminous waves of fabric were put on the glass buffet top (not shown) with little lettered signs describing all the incredibly delectable treats served at the mingle for about 150 people after the year-end event that night. It was a fabulous time.

I have made a little stack of great new Halfland notes that have occurred to me over the last few weeks. I plan to sneak some time tomorrow to post them here. I am supposed to be designing a new book cover for Himself, that is due for a catalog in a few days. Whoosh! Hoping to whip it out tomorrow before my down time or at least something that can be used for the catalog's due date that we can improve later.

Not Notes from Halfland but at least you can know that I'm thinking about it.
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