Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Leaf-Olympics: Day 5--Slow, Patient, Happy

Another big batch of small leaves were hand-painted and applied to the tree again today. To cheat the perspective, I concentrated the smaller leaves in the upper branches. The over all tree looks too uniform and is crying out for a larger variety of leaf sizes to look more natural. I will add them to the lower branches (as shown on the lower right hand sample branches) to slightly trick the eye into thinking the tree is more grand in height.

I did a quick count of what a batch size is and came up with approximately 300 leaves per, seen above lower right. Seems as though it should be faster to accomplish painting these, considering I am just roughing in the paint for cinematic effect.

It seems to take me about 8 hours to paint and apply each batch of 300 leaves. I use an olive green brush tip-marker to streak on a clumsy vein shadow on each leaf. I'm getting more familiar with how to make the leaves grow on the branches. Can leaves look jaunty? These are starting to look happy to me!

Things are starting to look up. Now we're getting somewhere! (Somebody say montage of the growing progress? I'm all over it.)

I can call adding the hand-painted leaves to Halfland's Answer Tree a bit of a "burning" passion these days. The only way I can position the clusters at the right growing angles is to pinch the blob of hot-glue with the stem held in position. Normally it is merely, au, warm but about a dozen times it was downright painful, with wincing. But hold on I did. (TOOL TIP: If one were buying tools to make a such a thing, I read about a cold heat glue-gun that might, if the glue works at a lower temp, save the feeling in fingertips. It's cordless too, a plus for getting into tight branch spots.)

I am so into adding these leaves, I can't get enough of doing it. There was that "Moment" again while working today where I felt as nature must feel when she makes a tree; slow, patient, happy.

Daisy Chaining

I came across these items bloggy jumping today. One is a brief article about a productivity secret from Jerry Seinfeld called a Motivation Chain, check it out! "...It works because it isn't the one-shot pushes that get us where we want to go, it is the consistent daily action that builds extraordinary outcomes. You may have heard "inch by inch anything's a cinch." Inch by inch does work if you can move an inch every day." (via Not Martha)

The other great item was in the comments at LifeHacker, a link to Loopdo a little Motivation Chain tool that a bright fellow named Ben, living in Beijing (!), made to support those that want to try the technique and get clear community support to boot!

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. --Annie Dillard

Monday, July 30, 2007

Leaf-Olympics: Day 4--Sprout It Out!

The greenery is starting to show up on the tree in photos now. It's eery in person around here. It is as though a real tree is starting to develop its leaves. You may spot one of my special companions sitting in her chosen designated spot in Halfland. Who wouldn't want to get down to work with that kind of support!?

A big batch of leaves were painted and applied to the Answer Tree today. Hopefully if I keep going this way, at some point the tree will look naturally, fully crowned. (view from top of ladder on right.)

One of the huge benefits of having a project blog like this one is that the journaling of progress photos provides much more of an objective take on what's being built. Par exemple (that's franche): A few weeks ago, when I mocked up some of the furniture and props for the kitchen interior, the next day I noticed in the posted picture that the little table was not a good scale for the stand-in puppet. This was an example of a detail that I never would have caught in person, without seeing it in context via Notes. I bought additional wooden shapes and hot-glued them onto the bottom of the existing legs to raise the table height to a good size. I may paint them as shown above.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Tree Love

More Love: In keeping with the Tree Feature theme, reader Rich thought I might appreciate the recent movie, The Fountain. He was quite correct, I really enjoyed it, and the rather beautiful tree (seen above) that played an important metaphorical role in it. Watching the special features on the disk, glimpsing how the filmmakers constructed their star tree inspired me to forge on with my own little creation with renewed courage.

(More on the film pulled from comments: I thought they did a superb job of crafting something hugely difficult, the delicacy of an eternal, spiritual reality. I loved how they wove multidimensional existence into one narrative--not an easy feat! I thought all involved managed to pull off beautifully rendered visual poetry. Applause, applause from me.

Paul looked up the Amazon reviews and while some seemed to enjoy it and get the filmmakers, Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel's intent, many were so frustrated by it. One review disparagingly called it "Art over Entertainment" which I wholeheartedly agreed with as an assessment. Except in my case, that statement makes the film an utter triumph.

I was nearly going to add this [DID] to the Tree Love post because it was so key. I am definitely going for "art over entertainment" with Halfland, without question, firmly believing that there will be some like me that will be meaningfully entertained by seeing the art.")

Reader Ben saw this early photograph (The dryad, c.1910, photograph: John Cimon Warburg/The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum in CORRECTION: West Yorkshire, England)) the other day. He thought it evoked a magical quality to which both our projects aspire.
Ben also sent me this great shot of a bike, long left in the crook of a tree, slowly became part of the tree as it grew. This is the kind of feel I have in mind for the things that have grown into the kitchen in Halfland's Answer Tree. Love it. Thanks, Ben.
Today's (7/27/07) episode of Rocket Boom has a sweet little film that demonstrates to me the very best in humanity and our shared affection for trees. It made me teary, damn hormones.

Leaf-Olympics: Day 3--Look Alive!

Two batches of the next size leaf were painted, one batch was hot-glued into place. The tree is looking more alive in startling ways in person (the photo above is yukky flash and kills the good look of both wood and leaf). While I'm applying the leaves it looks like real wood as I look for where a leaf cluster might emerge.

Getting a bit better at painting the leaves and by better I mean a faster system. It looks as though I will only need another 3-4 batches of this size leaf to finish the whole tree. I won't likely need more than a few accenting stems of the larger sizes. I bought many life-sized silk faux stalks of this leaf specimen and find the smallest sizes to be a very good scale for the Halfland tree. This leaves me with leaves, two buckets full. The leaf painting quality is crude compared to the kind of detail I prefer for the project, however, as long as the leaves have a certain life-like dimension of color and shape it will suffice. If I insisted on making each leaf a work of art, then, as Nick H said, I'd need to have a daughter for her to complete the film one day.

I mix warm browns, wines, and rusts, as I paint each batch of backs, blending multiple shades of color, no two leaves alike. Contrasting colors are dry brushed on the raised plastic veining. I love how the beet red veins look on the terra cotta leaves. Green tops get the same treatment before they are highlighted with yellow/lime and olive green vein painting.

After that, it's a matter of squeezing two small droplets of hot-glue onto the natural knobs and knurls of the branches, waiting until they thicken a moment while I select the stemmed leaf clusters for each spot. I press the stems in and hold them in place at the right angles with my fingers (yes, this burns a little, suffering for my art.) until they set up and cool.

Later, all the joining places will be secured and covered with matching tinted cement to complete wooden illusion of the branch.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The "After Effects" of Sensory Kinesthesia

Things admired, things made. First thing, Justin called over his magical daughter, one of the cutest, sweetest little girls in whole wide world, and did a great job of explaining how she can whisper an important question in to Halfland's Answer Tree's ear and wait while the Writing Mouse, living beneath the roots, writes down the answer for her to one day grow out onto a leaf. Another wonderful experience of meeting online friends and sharing what we love, art, stop motion, and talking about art and stop motion. Oh, and looking at art and stop motion, watching a little artful stop motion, and eating.

The Raschs, Justin, Shel and Aedon's visit here was duh, amazing. They are such "pure" people. That's the only way Paul and I can describe the quality that radiates from their faces as they talk, purity and joy. A complete and utter delight. Props to Paul for doing an outstanding job of keeping everyone fed and watered up while the rest of us yapped and explored, talked about our projects, and made new things.

It is extremely valuable to meet with stop motion brothers in person, I've decided. Conversation with partners that share your fetishes and understanding creates an environment for self-revelation. As I was explaining my film to Shel and Justin, they, especially the more experienced Justin, being jaw-dropping performance animators, on the set for Halfland, it dawned on me that my film is far less about the actual animation than I imagined it to be. I realized that my puppets may hardly move, or may have odd montage transitions as part animation style, I'll know more when I get in there to do it. But I could see that for me, it's ALL about detailed visuals and the original folktale story, no dialog, relatively limited articulation. Good to know.

I'm embarrassed that I didn't know, but a practical epiphany for me was Justin explaining that Adobe's After Effects could automatically composite a separate sky into my scene without my having to do that manually frame by frame as I had thought. That would render my whole mad ten-foot, seamless, rolling, sky scaffolding scheme (that I was describing with my hands in large gestures) moot. I'm on it. Googling classes or good online tuts for it.

The producer's mind in Shel looked around and asked excellent questions. Would I be blacking out the workshop windows to shoot?, etc. Justin suggested flip up hooves on Rana that would conceal a kind of tiedowns that wouldn't be tightened from underneath. Even though I tried to, I didn't create enough easy access to under the cottage floor in my set.

Shel's hands were first to find the basket of wool roving here--it's irresistible--but it didn't take very long before the whole artistic family present was obsessed with needle felting images with it. The image of them working in the center, fingers flying into the foam base and fleecy fibers with sharp, barbed needles, working together on the same work of art really captures the power of the Raschs. At their center, they naturally come together, as a family, and work together on whatever interests them. The end result is always extraordinary. This time it was a wonderful woolen wolf sculpted right onto the corner of the foam block. Simply great.

I want to add a note that I find a definite connection between stop motion makers and tactile things like touching wool (see above) Hmmm, could it be, yes, I think it is, people who like making puppets and miniature worlds with their hands also like touching and sculpting with wool fibers. Sensory Kinesthesia must run in the stop mo family?

You are looking at a future stopmotionist at work (with her dad helping out.) She tickled everyone who heard her knowingly ask for some "wire, please" to attach the arms and ears onto her charming clay character! The picture on the right is one of the favorites I've ever taken of anyone. Can you stand how proud she is and how delicately she's holding her figure, with little pinkies out?! Arrrr.

We talked about Justin and his partner, artist, animator, producer, dancer, wife, Shel's plans for future collaboration and creative ventures, exciting stuff's in store for them. We examined what possible voodoo might be what's allowing Justin to begin work on his animation every night around midnight after a long days at work. We decided that it must be his natural drive and focus (In addition to the diet Cokes I mean!). That backbone may have come, in part, from his inner reserves of fortitude he developed by having to "Represent" in a confrontational, tough, urban neighborhood coming up. Except now he shows up at his set to represent himself. Right on. He simply tells himself that he doesn't want to be the guy that gets distracted and loses the concentration needed to make his plans come about. No danger there. It's amazing to me how we all get the experiences we need that best serve our grown up goals.

Justin, Shel, and I all agreed (and guys please correct me if I say it poorly) that we don't care to do our projects the "right" way only to possibly get hung up in the less important obstacles of making them happen. We share a determination to express what we need to, through this choice of medium, stop motion, by any means that work, without caring if it's "wrong". We'll look ahead and try for smart methods all along, but that's less important than the fact that it move forward.

I include myself in that sentiment because I feel I've flipped a switch, or turned some kind of corner recently, where I no longer feel my feet dragging through my subconscious mind on this. It's like in the last few months I've found my way into making it happen. I have no clue why after 14 years I'm still, no, even more interested in this project than ever.

Everyone made such great art, they were invited to sign our guest artist board. Justin signed and drew his main character, Dog, and Aedon drew her own girl dog right next to it. We did stop the art and the looking and talking enough for lunch at some point, a centerpiece of roses and marching ants (I hope Photoshop geeks are lol-ing right now) garnished our picnic table. The multi-talented, stunningly beautiful, inside and out, Shel Wagner Rasch, got into the bead collection and made a really attractive necklace to take home.

I am behind the Raschs all the way in whatever they do. I stand with them in support as a fan and friend for always. Go get 'em, guys. And thanks for coming by our way for a little while.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hey, Neat!

A brief pause in the action to clean a far gone, shamefully neglected studio before guests (people you know! or should!) stop by this weekend. I meant to take a couple hours this morning just to "straighten up" but it just kept going and going until dusk.

The shop doesn't look revolutionize-ing-ly more organized or ordered but things are put back where they belong and the thick layer of dust and fur that had collected over everything is gone. Yep, clean as a whistle. Why didn't I do this for me? It's so nice to have table tops clear and fresh paper down, weeee.

I took care of a few things that had been left hanging for, oh... YEARS! I had been meaning to take my most precious reference sheets, filled with an irreplaceable collection of inspiring visuals for all aspects of the film, and hang them rug shop style so I could reference them easily. I made giant jump rings out of iron wire and looped them onto the sides of my handy-for-sculptures baker's rack. Character references on the left, set design on the right (above). I can clip them off and hang them on a rope line while working out a specific detail. Done.

Ready for my artist friends, can't wait to see what they might be interested in looking at!

The Leaf Olympics resume tomorrow! (I swear I fell asleep last night dreaming about applying more luscious leaves!)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Leaf-Olympics: Day 2

Spring sprung here in Halfland today as the leaves painted yesterday disappeared onto the outer tips of the tree canopy.

CONFESSION: It took some sticktoitness on my part today. Painting leaves--no problem. Attaching a few in the sweltering heat--no problem. But somewhere toward the middle of the batch I felt lost in the amount of work it will take to apply all these leaves. It isn't that many more will need painting on both sides, it's isn't the sticking them on carefully so they look natural, angles to consider, even quickly, etc. but to have to sculpt the dozens of joins into miniature branches--woomf. That's going to take a bit to do. It's ok--the results are looking so rewarding already, my loins are girded to go forward with it now.

STICK 'EM UP (left): The sticky tape table trick worked perfectly as I was able to cover the leaves quickly without getting any errant paint where I didn't want it. Nick and Rich rightly thought the strength of the masking tape might pull fresh paint right off but because I handled the tape enough to lessen the tack, it seemed to hold just right. [One could also use a more delicate adhesive tape (3M's blue extra gentle) or repositional spray adhesive on cardboard (although I find spray glues to be too toxic to use anymore, even if using a respirator, as it lands everywhere as a permanent mess.)] I used an olive green brush marker to draw veins on the finished leaves. Remember, there will also be yellowing paper leaves made for the answers too! (page in a book= folio, leaves on a tree = foliage, just thought I'd share.)

LOOSE LEAF (middle): The hardest part of today's task was re-gluing the veins and stem onto leaves that had come off. I pulled apart stem clusters and ran a bead of hot-glue on the flat reverse side of a mini branch of it. Then press it to the back of a loose leaf, taking up any excess hot glue with my thumb. (It didn't hurt, callus person I guess.) These single leaves were glued onto the tree as if they grew on the spot.

A PLACE IN THE SUN: You might notice the transparent drop of hot-glue against the light from the window behind, just to illustrate how these smallest of the sizes were placed.

I walked past a tree last night (I notice all trunk textures now!) and saw that my bark should have beautiful strips of red/burnt umber where the outer dusty grey/taupe layers have been damaged. This morning I took a water-filled squeeze-brush dipped in straight acrylic and found areas around the tree to accent this way. (Yes, I know I was "done", but that was before I saw this cool tree.) I like the touch, it shows up more of the realistic detail in the plaster texture.

And how do you paint inside your wooden ear-in-a-tree? Why, with a bent Q-Tip© attached to a chopstick of course! I was able to get paint into all the deep, hidden crevices easily this way.

A silhouette of today's swallowed-up growth. It's happening though.

Today's progress doesn't show up well in photos, the leaves are so small and the tree so large. However, I can tell already that it will look truly wonderful when all the sizes are there. I have to apply them in stages like this so that the tree appears to be growing evenly all around. I plan to glue all the foliage in place first and then go back and cover all the joins with cement in one busy fingered pass.

HALFLAND NARRATIVE NOTE: The viewer of Halfland, the audience, is the Mythical Hero of most other tales. But in this case, the film is seen from his POV. He travels to a magical land, engages and learns from magical people, and returns to the world where he started, transformed.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let Leaf Day Launch

Started painting the smallest of the silk leaf undersides and plastic veins today.

A possible winning method consisted of first covering the table surface with masking tape, sticky side UP. I pressed down the leaves onto the tape, spaced as closely together as possible, and essentially re-painted what the poor political prisoners in China had already made nicely in light shades of terra cotta and green. Then I peeled them up and flipped them over to essentially re-paint the topsides, in several shades of happy, spring-fresh greens, that the neo-emerging labor classes of the next-global megagloboulos empire had already made so pretty and realistic when I bought them from Michael's craft supply shop.

I'll know more when I get more deeply into the painting process tomorrow, but the tape should help keep the top and bottoms cleaner by holding the edges flat against the table. On the test leaves a few weeks ago, I kept inadvertently having the wrong colors seeping on to the wrong sides when holding them up for a slap dash paint job.

After these leaves are painted on both sides, I'll be attaching each stem to the finished tree trunk with a dollop of hot-glue. This shiny bump will be later covered up with a pinch of tinted flexible cement to grip the stem more tightly and blend the surface textures of plastic stems and woody branches together.

Embarking on something new here in Halfland. Woodn't want to leaf anything out. Ok, I'll stop.

Touch n' Go On

Tree trunk (the whole wooden part of the tree) painting now officially done. (after dark photos; low res)

I'm calling the trunk painting done. I've spent many hours painting, painting, painting. Up 'vis the taupe, down 'vis the brown, too mooche blaque, needs more jellow. It got so I think I've re-colored the whole tree the same a few times over, like when I'm driving lost and keep seeing the same landmarks.

Last night I sat for a long while using only my middle finger pad to delicately rub on pale yellow acrylic detail onto the texture between the grooves on the inside cottage side, where most of the tree would be seen up close. I had to adjust my tactile awareness to become familiar with exactly how much pressure and paint to apply to color top most surface of the avocado skin roughness. It looked just right in the dark but by morning it looked less natural. It was back to stippling, stippling, and knocking back (with) some alcohol for me.

I can't tell if I've been-there-before, color wise. It no longer matters as it looks pleasing enough to me in total. There are many areas that don't look at all as though they've been painted, rather as though they ARE wood. Very satisfying moment when that bit of alchemy can happen.

I re-masked the cottage walls where they meet the trunk and touched up the plaster where it had been damaged by the removal of the previous mask for the sculpt stage. With it dry and peeled up it now looks cleanly seamless between tree and walls.

Tomorrow is Leafday™

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Make Mine A Double!

Inspired by Rich's comment, a quikie mock up of a sky background just to see more of how the tree might look in its context. Higher res version here inspired by Mike's request.

Don't ask me how I knew to do this... but it came to me this morning to take a scrub brush with straight rubbing alcohol to the tree surface to regain the warm browns and reds of the base color. I used a stiff toothbrush dipped right into the bottle, went at the spots that had too much taupe, and wiped away the excess with a soft towel. It was a remarkable treatment because for some reason the alcohol melted through the acrylics and sumi-e ink just enough to blend them where I wanted and dissolve them by applying a bit more pressure.

It's a back and forth process, but with each attempt I'm gaining an area that rings the bell and looks right.

I should be able to finish up the surface Monday and then begin on the leaves that the tree is only now aching for.

Tree finishing in progress, where the contrast is too high, I knock it down with the alcohol and wipe it back to the brown base color, spray it with black, and add highlights again, repeat.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Knock Down Drag Out

I took me quite a while to figure out that it was BLACK sumi-e ink (Nicked from Paul's art supplies, shhhh!) diluted with water in a misting spray bottle that was needed on the bark. I was trying red and brown transparent water color and photo retouch concentrates at first, but it wasn't until I hit the surface with that strong, jet black ink that it "popped" into looking real. I hadn't realized how dark the fissures are in real trees before.

Then I went over the whole tree again with straight pale taupe acrylic on a dry house paint brush, coloring just high peaks of texture.

The now strong contrast between a darkened basecoat and new highlights bothered me. It had lost most of the original brown base and taupe midtone. I re-worked that a bit, knocking down the highlight patches with more black spray and increasing the highlight tone to an even more pale yellow. It's coming along. Almost there.

I go at it again in daylight on Monday and plan to find the faux-mojo in me to finish it. Some parts of branches look so much like real wood (not pictured), that I have to stop and think whether I'd forgotten to cover the real branches with cement. Weird.

Then... It's Leaf Central, Inc. around here! I thought I'd start by using the littlest leaves first on the outer most tips and then place the next smallest and see how that amount of foliage looks.

ART BONUS: New Buttons Are Ready to Ship Out!
Yesterday's couch project was to package up the NEWLY RELEASED Halfland's Second Highly Collectible Limited Edition Memorabilia Buttons! The illustration on them really captures the "Halfland's-Pink-Snail-traveling-home-at-dusk" cozy feel.

They go out Wednesday as gifts to patrons of this project, friends, supporters, and readers of this blog. That means YOU!, if you've emailed me your address privately, If you haven't yet, there's one waiting for you (just email: nobledesign[at]sbcglobal[dot]net and just put "button" in the title.) I'd love everyone who wants one to have one!

It's a small way of thanking you for visiting this place. You are a treemendous inspiration in my progress, as you can see.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mutha' Nature

It's a neat trick to "dry brush" with watered down paint. But that 's just what I did with a 3" feathery-tipped house paint brush. Fantastic.

I can't describe how thrilled I am with how the tree is turning out. It is exceeding my expectations, um, treemendously. I know I'm getting things how I'd want them when it feels as though it's the way nature must make trees Herself. There's a funny groove/pace/place where the results are looking so natural in person that I feel a little, and I say this with total absolute awareness that I am certainly not at all, but it feels a little, dare I say, (god) like. It's satisfying in a way I can't describe. I am having so much fun.

I feel the feelings in my lady gut parts that say, "Hey, why don't you take some Motrin©, put on a heating pad, and lay down for two or three days." I'll work on whatever I can in Halfland, as soon as I can, believe you me. Take good care.

This pass of a watered down mixture of light taupe floor paint, yellow, and burnt sienna acrylics is meant to act as a mid-tone stage. Next will come a "knock-back" of diluted dark brown ink and highlighting with a more pale taupe on the highest texture points.

Bits of progress, this morning I removed all the regular masking tape masks that were protecting the tile details on hearth and stairs, and the chimneys (top images) revealing white borders and peeling up some of the step paint with it. As Halfland would have it, the flat step tiles looked better as natural clay than how I had painted them. Fortunately for time's sake, the hand-painted patterned tiles were left mostly intact. I may re-paint the step tiles again. Either way, I march onward, making whatever happens work for the project. I love the way the chimneys look stained with brown paint! (bottom left) So storybook! Bottom right shows how the hearth and cabinet details are integrating into the tree after being painted in.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Oooo, Sub-Tull

Today the tree was washed in a dilute mix of straight burnt sienna acrylic and water everywhere that there were missed white spots buried deeply in the texture. Heaven forfend any white specs remain after subsequent coats of color go on, thereby ruining the barkie bark illusion.

A secondary purpose of this act was to add color-dimension to the undercoat color. The more shades and tones I use in the tree, the more natural the end effect will look.

Taupe Tomorrow. Mmmmm.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Holy Molé, it was all shades of choco sauces here in Halfland today, cinnamon, milk, and dark batches kept being mixed and applied. You might say it was a factory, a chocolate... never-mind.

I plowed on and managed to give the entire tree a coating of melted chocolate-like paint. I looked at a real similar species of log in the shop and many reference photos and saw that the undermost base coat of color should be quite dark, nearly black/brown. There should be some warm red tones in spots where bark will have been rubbed off, and much of the top surface should be an aged, dusty taupe.

The tree looks fantastic in person, already at this stage. The texture *almost* fools the eye though most of the paint illusion hasn't yet been fabricated as much as it will. The spaces between the roots will be filled with dirt, leaves, stones, grasses, and mosses, as will satellite landscape sets.

It already looks better than I'd imagined. I'm having such a great time working on it, even with a smashed finger and sore painter's cramp arm. It's a giant cement tree in the middle of my house!? How weird is that?! At least it matches our floors, heh.

Monday, July 09, 2007

What Can Brown Do for Me?

Base color tests going on the finished tree form. Texture looking so good in person, even in this undeveloped stage. I'm really happy with it.

I mixed up all the jars and tubes of Burnt Umber and Siennas I've been squirrling away over the years for just this moment... the Halfland Tree painting.

I extended the volume with Nova's matte medium, to both seal the highly-textured plaster surface and to see how much it could cover. That batch got me about 38% of the tree done. I was going to quit for the day and wait for a Wednesday scoot to the fabulously fun Nova Color paint shop for more dark browns and taupes to finish the whole job.

Then I noticed a pint of leftover Latex-Epoxy floor paint with Vinyl Epoxy Resin. Normally, I'm loathe to use anything with toxic fumes here as the set is smack in the middle of our home and my computer desk is just 3 feet away, where I live and eat. But it was EXACTLY the right color, here, and free, um, why not? I put on my respirator and threw down a few areas darkened with a drop of black gesso.

It's already dry and seems to be fantastic. Nice and flexible, no flake. I can get all my burnt tones for the undercoat with it and have a gallon of light taupe for the highlight shades, if I add in a little yellow.

This means I could finish painting the entire tree tomorrow.

::don't miss the post below, if you haven't read it, it's a bit of a "get" I think::

Breaking Stop Mo

Update: I just read it all and these gems are especially eyebrow raising-ly exciting!:

"...[Coraline's] being shot in digital 3-D, an industry first for stop-motion). "Stop-motion is sort of the redheaded stepchild of animation," Travis says. "But it's incredibly beautiful. What we're doing will blow people away."...

"... Just as Coraline traverses two worlds, so too does Travis. "There are things about the company I can't discuss with my friends on the floor," he says. "But the minute I become a suit to the other animators and artists, I lose a huge part of who I am. I don't fit into either world."...

...Travis is more comfortable with that dual role, though, than he was when he joined the board. He's had several years to reflect on the events that turned him and his father into partners. And while being Phil Knight's son can clearly be an albatross, it's hard to ignore the upside. Travis, after all, has come an awfully long way in his nine-year career--far beyond the imagination or reach of a typical animator. Phil created opportunities for his son before he could earn them on his own. Overseeing development of the Laika campus. Hiring the animation department for Jack and Ben [the next special production]. Sitting on the board of directors. Before Laika, Travis had hoped to eventually supervise or direct one day. But nothing like this--and certainly not this fast....

...For all of that, he's grateful. He embraces the responsibility. "If not me, then who?" he says. "These are people's livelihoods we're talking about. I'd much rather be a part of those decisions than leave it up to someone else."...

..."For Laika, Phil instructed Slusher to scour the globe for top talent in … children's book publishing. Slusher brought back Fiona Kenshole, the former publishing director for Oxford University Press Children's Books in London, to scout stories for acquisition. She doesn't have a film background, either, but her connections helped Laika win the rights to the best-seller Here Be Monsters, one of several projects teed up behind Jack and Ben."...

..."Finally, Selick managed to get the script to Focus Features, the art-house arm of Universal. Focus CEO James Schamus, a veteran producer (Brokeback Mountain) and screenwriter (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), thought Coraline stood out. And he thought Laika understood moviemaking in a way few newcomers do. Coraline, says Schamus, "is the most technically and aesthetically advanced movie I've ever worked on--3-D and stop-motion and high definition."...

..."8 a.m. on a Friday, he has already been at work for an hour, hot glue stuck to his fingers, dirt smudged on his jeans. The production takes place in a huge unmarked warehouse. Sealed off from the clamor of hammering and rock 'n' roll, a series of stages is defined by tall black curtains clipped shut. A red light indicates filming is under way. Eight animators (soon to be a couple dozen) are working on various scenes, hoping to please Selick, a famously exacting director."

These photos aren't in the online article. I snapped them for your droll drooling. Fantastic tree. (The caption says that the blue marshmallow peeps are temporary.)

NEWSFLASH!!! A friend just thoughtfully forked over a four-page article in the July/August 07 Fast Company that reports on the daring doo that animator, Travis Knight is engaged in, in Portland. Anyone interested in some behind the curtain dish about a little project called, Coraline?!!!

I haven't stopped to read it through yet, but the piece looks as though it's filled with brutal truths about how nasty even stop mo business can get.

"'I was naive,' Vinton says. 'Definitely naive.' A few years earlier, his stock had been worth more than $20 million; six months later, he was fired from the company he'd founded and given $125,000 in severance. Devastated, he sued Phil and the new board members, including Travis, saying he'd been unfairly forced out. It was all part of Phil's plan, Vinton charged, to hand over the studio to 'his child.' A judge dismissed the suit."

Laika intrigues? Maybe this explains something about Mr. Vinton's appearance the other day at the Stop Mo Expo in LA and some of his motivations to launch his own FreeWill venture? Hmm.

[Rhetorical Q] How can something as cool as stop motion works of art, with the finest practitioners of the craft working on a worthwhile story, be anything other than sheer joy all around?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Impasto Imposter --or-- The Case of the Bloody Stumps

In yet another total surprise to me, as I was applying plaster to the outside roots gingerly, I noticed that if I applied some to the trunk, on top of the already highly textural FlexAll cement surface, I was getting some pretty perfect bark-like appearance. But things got crazy wild when I started raking the plaster layer with my bare hand, well, my nails/claws actually. I had to work fast, laying down a trowel of plaster on various tree surfaces and then scribe through it with my fingers at first, and then my poor Sandy Claus (there were spots of slight abrasion and a couple of nails that had plaster up under the place in nails where nothing but bamboo in a torture situation should ever go), gouging out the rugged layer I wanted. As the plaster further set up, I also scraped the surface with the blades of a small cutter to create finer grooves overlapping my dig lines.

It took about six small pails of plaster to finesse the whole tree inside and out. I touched up little missed spots on branch tips with yogurt-like soft batches and actually clipped away tiny excess chunks of dried cement, not perfecting, but just finishing. And now she's ready for painting.

I really feel great about this, better than ever. Tomorrow I get to take whatever brown paints I have already here and mix them into one under-color, adding in a slosh or two of matte medium for securing the surface.

New Reader, eFriend™ Rich made me think further about cutting up the tree now, before finishing it further, because I agree, it really does make more sense. However, when I walked over to the tree to see where and how I might go about it, I was again getting a red light on doing it now. I don't even know what's under there and how much damage my dismantling might cause. I rationalized that the worst case scenario would be that I'd have to mask off the house and much of the leaves and possibly have to re-create the finish in plaster and paint. But even at that, I'd still rather do it when the time comes than slow my roll now.

(*please note; yesterday's photos have been "downdated", restored via previous technology)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Masked Marvel

UPDATE: The Peeps hath spoke... No mo Picto. Thanks, Guys!
Here's yesterday's progress montage, already rendered moot by today's, yay!

Fantastic stage of things here. I applied the last of my entire stock pile of FlexAll cement to the tree (and won't buy more as this phase could go on endlessly.) It is tree-mendous fun creating the "bark " texture with this particular product, wowwie.

I added wood trim to the step edges and plastered them into the tree bark too, as was the cabinet and all the hearth tiles. After the tree gets painted, and the masks are removed, I'm hoping all of the details will look "grown" into the tree itself. The idea is that the tree has grown into the middle of the cottage through the ages. The roots have become part of how the house functions for its owner.

Some of the areas of the tree's cement texture are looking so lifelike, to scale, that I'm thrilled. It looks like real bark in some spots. Fantastic. It's nearly ready to paint. After I mix up a few batches of regular plaster of paris to finish sculpting the roots on the tree's outside, I'll need to go get a larger quantity of brown and taupe acrylics. I'm planning a Nova Color run this week for that.

I debated whether to slice the tree branches into re-assemble-able sections at this stage vs. after it's all finished. The question being which stage would result in less destruction when the tree will, at some point, have to be transported out of here. My mind said now would be a better time to deconstruct the crown in two or three sections and install a board and dowel peg-system of some kind so the parts could be reassembled when needed. But my gut sez no, keep going, don't stop, fix it in post, otherwise you'll be waylaid too much with this sort of never-ending technical task. (My gut happened to be connected to Paul's mouth as he said as much when I asked him for his opinion.)

I have several thank you cards to write, and for one of them I wanted to make another of the wonderful paper pop-up lotus flower cards designed by Tatyana Stolyarova. But my printer is broken (I dropped it a few months ago) and I couldn't find the pattern pieces anywhere.

I can't believe this worked! I took a piece of clear acetate, taped it to my monitor, brought up Tatyana's pdf on my screen (set to the size I wanted to boot!), traced around the pattern pieces with a Sharpie, cut them out of the plastic, traced around those onto hand-painted watercolor papers, assembled, and voila!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Stepping Right Along

Testing out the quite marvy photo deal called Pictobrowser (found via Maggie Mason's blog). It's elegant and free (aren't we all?) you just use Flickr to upload instead of Blogger. Sweet. We'll see. I don't see how to make it fit this template, for example.

Another full day on the 'ol project. Loving it! Got the step tiles painted, placed, stuck on, then fully grouted. Next step is to mask them off when dry in the morning and proceed to slather the last of the FlexAll bark all over this mugumbowwwww. Wee haw.

Then comes a paintin'
Then comes hardwood floor layin'
Baseboards next

(sigh... reads like a Haiku don-nit?)

Oh, and (crow woman) Tarn's face will have no chin!

And (moth man) Yanu will be smaller than I thought!

And I learned from Googling a GREAT way to make the clouds on the sky scrim... Lookie; cut card stock stencil, use white spray/aerosol paint.

Monday, July 02, 2007

They're Here!

Halfland's NEW Limited Edition, Highly Collectible, Memorabilia Buttons have arrived!
Final button art on left, the Pink Snail character lumbers along in evening light, illuminated by its swaying porch lantern. Photo of actual buttons (shot in the dark, no, really, not a euphemism) on right. They are so cute in person! Love these!

Button #2 just in today for 2007. Made for me by the lovely Miss Kate Black of Brooklyn. I love having her involved because she works swiftly with a generous attitude and as it says on her card, she makes everything with love. If you read this blog, I'd love to include you with a NEW button as a gift. To get one, if you haven't already, email a mailing address (kept private absolutely) to nobledesign[at]sbcglobal[dot]net.

PRODUCT TIP: Fast Mountains
Also new to me, a set building material by Rose Brand called Brusan Molding Cloth. It's cloth covered flexible aluminum sheeting that can be shaped endlessly for all your landscaping needs.

"innovative, and re-usable fabric coated aluminum core bends and molds easily and holds its shape to make fabulous texture forms. The Natural Canvas is ready for painting, and comes single-sided or double-sided for versatility. An incredible time saver in the shop or on site."

"Think of all the years spent with chicken wire, paper mache, and glue-soaked muslin, and you'll realize just how terrific this product really is. Available in natural, sand, stone, and flocked snow, the molding cloth can save hours and hours of time for scenics at all levels of theatre."

x-pensive tho, priced from $261 for single-sided canvas for a 10 yard roll (don't see how wide.) This girl'll be sticking to free cardboard, newspaper clumps, and starch papier mache. But still, nice to know about it.
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