Friday, August 31, 2007

Hub Bub

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 Once again, Mike's Unibrain web cam patrol of joy comes to the rescue so I can document today's progress. It takes two to do though. Paul's taking a few semi days-off so was here to hold the webcam while I, back at the computer, took the screen grab. This is the photogenic side of the tree/cottage set. The proportions look just right.
Today I shoved each of the stock roof beams into a face on a small, hexagonal papier mache box at peak. It acts like a hub of a wheel, from which the beams emanate like spokes. It will be prettified with strong papier mache and finished to look like a wood finial with its own finished mini roof, like the topper on a gazebo. It isn't my favorite solution--however, it is indeed necessary to press on without taking a divergence into carpentry in order to craft a perfect compound cut roof peak of glory. It just won't matter in the end whether it's there or not. I'm voting for the film being done instead.

I also stained all the beautiful cedar shingles and beams. I mixed a dilute stain of burnt umber, red and charcoal grey acrylic to get a variety of rich, warm, brick/chocolate tones for the rough hewn wood tiles. Tomorrow, I finish securing the beams, we get a mess of lathing strips to hot glue in place on them. Then it's a shingle mingle fitting each one onto those flat surfaces in proper courses.

Hardwood plank flooring coming soon too.

Nu Yanu

Meet the Nu Yanu. He's elongated in the legs with new modesty shadow, and stained black from the ribs down. I realized he's always running through the tree canopy or crouching on tree branches. It will be an easy feat to keep his nethers shrouded in constant shadiness. He's also trying on Luna-like moth wings, something in more subtle, moon-like coloration.

IN OTHER NEWS: Downstairs Clare did heroic 1/2Landian work today and cut all the stacks of cedar shims I bought down into cottage roof shingles with his radical radial saw. I had him come up and see the tree and consult on how my lumber layout for the cottage roof was shaping up to his expert set-builder eyes. He said it seemed fine and thought it would work. Silence after that, so I'm on my own with it.

I tried my caveman measurements for the angles of the roof beams to meet at the peak with compound cuts but it is not working, no matter how many angles I try. Too many calculations for me. I thought of instead sculpting a kind of gazebo topper out of aluminum gutter mesh that the beams could slot into securely. This would allow roof panel sections to come apart as much or as little as I'd need for filming. The metal could be covered in papier mache and finished to look like wood, topped with shingles and moss, however I'd care to.

Thinking about it. Staining the box of raw, great smelling cedar wood shingles tomorrow.

Monday, August 27, 2007


All thoughtful good comments in recent posts, thought I'd bring some of it more up front. The Fabio comments were rough to take because that's the last vibe I'd want to evoke with yanu. But I DO SEE the similarity Mike and Nick mention, as you can see by my quickie 1/2L. good sport romance-novel cover.

The Fabio Factor: Nick H. gave some fantastic detail on his thought process in having realistic nudity in his film, L'Animateur (my favorite of his great works so far.) He also quite rightly mentioned how the photo-realistic illustration style used on the last two Yanu "sketches" didn't fit with the other art for the film. I've gotten better at Photoshop since earlier sketches (it's been a decade long interim!) and am finding that making these quick sketches, by cobbling together free stock images grabbed off of Google image search or low res comps off of stock photo sites, gives me, a person who can. not. draw. the chance to visualize how my characters look before I go to build them in three-D. There's no way Yanu will be built to look that photo realistic--I couldn't do it if I wanted to. I'm sure that by the time the main pupps are built, they'll all carry the exact same level of hand-crafted, rusticity that I'm established in the set so far, the props, and the supporting cast of puppets.

Art vs. Animation: Sven quite correctly brought forward the idea of how art is free to show nudity and how important that is to do. There are larger perspectives on humanity than any one society's conventions should overrule. However, I still wonder how animation fits into art, I guess, that's the bugaboo in me. Like Ben, who seems more naturally shy about nude puppets says, I feel there should be some modesty maintained in stop motion because I can't see kids not being attracted to it. Adult Swim, et al aside, I guess I do have a strong association with this medium that we all love being kid friendly. I said it. It isn't because I'm a fraid of raising ire in people, I will stand behind what I do, it's just a niggle I've got to sort out.

More Actual Notes!
A. This is exactly the barrel I'll be making for the cottage porch that Rana will grab to go fetch Kyra from the stream.
B. This was an ad for dishes that I thought was close to the Teacup Roses idea. I think the chinaware should have bright red roses painted on like this.
C. There was a Smiling Lizard character in Halfland at one point. He was deleted so I could keep the puppet/prop list more manageable. But seeing this image (on the other day) makes me think of adding him back in!
D. I'll be hot-gluing debris like leaves, twigs, dirt, moss, etc. firmly all around the tree roots on the landscape sets. You'll think you're outside! Oy!
E. There will be lace, literally floral lace, spider-webs on the cottage porch that will have cut crystal beads like dewdrops (sketched above). I bought the beads yesterday at Ritual Adornments, such fun.
F. I ran across this doll making tool for making uniform fingernails in clay sculpture. I never would have thought of its shape but think it's brilliant. On the Kyra sculpt I used tiny pieces of vellum card stock cut into fingernail shapes.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

No Moth Balls Today

Today I made a second sketch for Yanu, the Mothman. This one a closer portrait with his deer kill slung over his shoulder. There are a couple more for this character study I'd like to make.

I think I should make a new sketch in this illustration style for the Rana and Kyra characters as well. It takes time but it really does help with visualizing the traits of the person, thereby resolving issues between my imagination and real being. When I move back to sculpting, so many unconscious questions will now be worked out.

LIFE AS ART QUOTE: "Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art."
--Leonardo da Vinci

Moth-er of Invention

Meet Yanu in his first character sketch. There'll be more soon...
Gah, haven't been here in ages due to book work. I stayed up late tonight to sketch the ol'mothera up. I had been worried about the Yanu character's bits (you know, his "hooha") since the beginning, some 14 years ago. How could I make an original, folktale animation that will likely be appealing on some level to child-type persons and have nude (sort-of) bodies I wondered to myself in a quandary. How could things like having exposed Yanu peenie possibly fit into a genre that normally attracts kids? Halfland would be un-classifiable, a real dilemma.

I knew I wasn't interested in altering what the film is in order to make it more palatable so I figured I tap dance when the time came and declare it, "A fabulous tale for the child in all of us---NO ONE ADMITTED UNDER 18". I also worried because I wasn't that keen to animate a regular, human willy, no offense to those so equipped. I had seen a very famous stop motionist's nude male puppet in action and found the whole enchilada a distraction. I kept saying, oh, that's an anatomically correct puppet! Ew?

The Halfland solution came to me the other day, as these things will. Yanu, the Mothman character, would have a very male genital-like feature (down there) via the body of an exotic moth. Green, smooth, wriggly caterpillars were a better visual match (surprisingly so) but the softly fuzzed moth tail seemed to embody the spirit of the thing and better reinforce the moth-as-man portrayal. The species chosen for Yanu sports extra appendage danglers to colorful effect.

There is persimmon colored pollen on his thighs and hair from his mothness getting mussed as he hunts through the forest with bow and arrow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ruff Start

Today's photos brought to you by the Darkstrider-stop-motion-patrol-of-joy-Unibrain-web-cam (story below) Today I took a cardboard tube length and positioned it where I wanted the cottage roof's high point to be. Then I grabbed miscellaneous hardwood mini-beams and placed them at all the junctures of walls with globs of Funtac®, with the other ends meeting back at the tube for drinks.
Hey, here's something funny... The other night when Paul and I were working on re-doing the design for his newest co-authored book, we got in a temporary heated spat over the situation, silly but that's what happened. Silly-er is that during this noisy discussion I ripped the buds out of my ears and violently threw my transistor radio down dramatically onto the floor whilst cursing. This caused my trusty dear Nikon CoolPix 950 with the broken battery hatch and creamy, wonderful natural light capturing ability to thunder down after it. The next day the little guy told me it was over (the camera--not Paul!) by click click clatter clunking when I turn it on (again, talking about the camera.) Now here's the silly-est part... the subject of the book, yep, you got it, finding inner peace.

I couldn't get Framethief to compress frames either, kept getting an error, so ended up taking screen shots of the feed. It was difficult to position the little cam and harder still to focus from across the room (I even tried looking back at the screen with binoculars--I'm not too proud to admit it.) I couldn't get to the opposite side of the set with the firewire cord so, until I get a replacement camera, I can't show you how cute the roof looks from over there. Each side of the set has totally different proportions of Mouse and Squirrel--I mean Tree and Cottage. From the side you see here, it looks like a giant house with an obscured tree at its side. But from the other two sides, it looks like a huge magical storybook Answer Tree grown into Rana's little cozy cottage.

I'll next need to get a load of cheap wooden lathing strips to hot-glue onto the beams, as quickly sketched in the bottom photo. Then will come mostly shingles made from cut and stained wooden shims.
Tonight I made my first sketch of the Tarn character. Her sculpture is well underway from several months back--but I have worked out a few things about how I'd like to marry a human woman's figure to a crow's and thought I might sketch it out. It was a very helpful exercise for me as the proportions of the two creatures are dramatically different. The crow's head is relatively huge for its body and yet I was certain I wanted the character's nose, chin, and mouth to relate in this way. I also discovered that she might like to have a wing-like attitude to her one human style arm.

A sketch for Yanu's hooha coming this week as well!

Thursday, August 16, 2007


This week I've been designing the interior of Paul's newest co-authored book. For comparison, I randomly opened up my current read, The World I Live In, by Helen Keller (an autobiography published by nyrb classics) to check a margin measure and stumbled upon this spread that took my breath away. (click to enlarge to read text)

The image and the words really say it all for me. The passage reflects perfectly how I'm thinking about Nature, God, Life, and even Death. The only other page of the book I've read is also annotated. I have the feeling every page will be. What kind of inspiring, enlightened creature was this Helen?

Continuing to work on the book tonight and tomorrow. Major Halflanding work resumes Monday! Be well, All!

Monday, August 13, 2007

I Went Outside!!

And 'derned if Shel wasn't right! There ARE some oak leaves as big as yer head! I didn't *believe* her but I trusted what she reported was true. Yesterday I saw (ok, I was looking) not one, but two oak trees with g'normous leaves! This one that I stole wasn't even close to the largest!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

NEWS FLASH: Answer Leaves' Opening Title Sequence

This clip from the incredible animation resource BBC Motion Gallery, will give me an informative guide for how I may want to create a "Growing Leaf" sequence of answers emerging on the tree's leaves for Halfland's opening titles.

Now that the green leaves are placed, I'm thinking ahead to how to make the paper answer leaves appear on the tree. This aspect of the tree won't be mentioned until the second Halfland movie that will feature the writing Mouse living among the tree's roots. However, there have been some questions asked of the Answer Tree already and these leaves will be growing the answers out soon.

For the opening titles to Halfland, I'm thinking of making the finished paper leaves and animating the sequence above in reverse by crumpling up the paper into small balls. The color could be painted from green to white as they mature and the writing can be read.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Leaf-Olympics: Day 10--Full Can-o-Peas!

Everyday during the Leaf-Olympics, Paul would come home from work and we'd laugh because I had been adding leaves to the tree ALL DAY and it didn't look any different than when he'd left. Ah, but now it's done and the work does show when compared and contrasted with the beginning stages. I'm very happy with the result and feel it strikes the right tone of real and hand-made for this film and its world.

It was awkward getting the placement right the last few days. Putting a few sprouts on was easy peasy at first and then became a whole nuther challenge as the branches got full. I resorted today to marking the spots where leaves should grow with blue tape while stepping back away from the tree and then using those as guides when I climbed up close with the glue gun. I actually had to rearrange a few of the leaves placed early on as my choices got more natural looking.

Now, at this point, anymore leaves would be too much, I'm happy to say. ALL leaves are "placed" with hot glue. I forgot in my hurry to move on that I still have to cement the joins of each stem to *finish* the tree. I can't rightly tell how time intensive or easy that step will go until I start at it next week. Hoping it will be quicker than I'm thinking it might be.

In the meantime, I turn my attention to finishing the cottage walls, inside and out, laying down the hardwood plank flooring, and maybe a little roughing in of cardboard set pieces for the surrounding landscape. Speaking of which...

For a preview/pre-viz of what I'd like the distant view to be through the cottage windows, we need look no further than the illustration on my dinner of canned beef stew last night... The view art seen above was taken from a photo of the actual stew label. I love it for the distant view--it's perfect. I'll be looking to recreate this effect precisely.

Before and after, see how it happened! For a slideshow of the Answer Tree growing up take a look here (Please let slideshow images load a minute before viewing.)

Leaf-Olympics: Day 9--As Leafy As I Wanna Be

Side view early this morning before the cut down leaves were added. Final placement shots coming tomorrow.

Nick H suggested I try to find a way to cut down the jumbo leaves into smaller sizes. I painted up a bunch and then figured out how to make the largest into faux small clusters. (top) I kept adding single leaves, snipping off threes into twos, cutting down jumbos into faux clusters, and repositioning leaves today. About half the acorns are capped.
Friend and appreciated Halfland supporter, Gretchin Lair's Birthdayplaooza rages on with the introduction of "SQUEEEE!" (of the Portland SQUEEES), her very OWN pin cushion (as soon as I've topped her with every color thread, needles, pins, and other sewing notions) made of knit glove, wool felted features, and cut up felt balls (some of the very ones Hila sent me all the way from Israel!) She'll be on her way to you soon, gl! Happy stitching! Squeeeeeeeeeeee!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Leaf-Olympics: Day 8--Plenty and Nuttin

Rana's stand-in shows a head-sized jumbo large leaf. I took everyone's advice into account and it worked! I can't explain why it looks right, but the largest leaves make the whole thing pop. Maybe it's because it adds another size variant to the mix?

I painted and added yet another 300 leaves, mostly mediums found mis-sorted in the large leaf's bucket! The tree is looking pleasingly full (better photos in daylight tomorrow), and while I could use about another 75-100 small only leaves, I'd say I've maxed out the branch space at this point. As Mike said, I wouldn't want to obscure the branch shapes.

Because he is a master animator, nature advocate, and spokesman for all trees, I did what Nick H said and used the largest leaves sparingly and only where they would not be obvious. FYI Nick, by the time the films are shot, this tree will be seen from every angle, 360ยบ from above and below.

And because she actually goes outside and has seen real oak trees, I did what Shel said and painted up some of the large leaves, putting them on strong-looking lower branches, and then filled in with the last of the medium sized leaves all over.

In Nutter News: NUTTSSSssss! The stalks of leaves came with their own acorns, which was a nice touch. But I didn't dig how they were sans caps, even though Google image searching showed that some variety are. It finally came to me to use something nubbly and woven on them to create the right shape and texture without being literal about it. These just feel correct in Halfland.

I auditioned several materials for the toppers including felted lambswool knitting in rosy brown, jute burlap, woven shopping bag handles, and heavy woven silks. But it was this incredible hand-woven, scratchy, raw, material that Paul selected from an artisan while visiting Japan that hit the mark best. It did something the others didn't, it felt more appropriately "nutty" than other fabrics ever could. I (*gasp*) cut it up, tinted its natural color with diluted acrylic water and then hot-glued turned edges of the cut pieces down when dry.

Tomorrow (or Thursday depending on my girl guts), every single last orphan single leftover leaf, about forty of them, will get Stick Flat glued onto wayward veining and go on fill any last little branch spot I can find. I'll also finish capping the whole batch of nuts, about forty more, and they too will go on.

At that point I will declare Halfland Leaf Olympics officially over. Instead of traditional laurel leaves, I've gone and won me a tree canopy. hoooyaaaay.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Leaf-Olympics: Day 7--Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

The last couple days have been a paint-and-glue-a-thon of pleasure. All the small and almost all the medium sized leaves are on the tree (see middle image.) The left image shows the tree less than one month ago! treemendous progress for me and a speed Halfland has never known before outwardly! The right image is a quickie computer sketch of what about twice the amount of leaves would look like.

Firstly, yay. I'm very pleased with how the tree is growing, each day it's getting and more magical here. Mashed potato mountain anyone? (The winning leaf painting method for future reference below*)

Decision time people. I'd sure appreciate an opinion. Do I apply the last of the medium-sized leaves tomorrow and call the canopy done until the paper Answer Leaves, nuts, and possibly berries are added and see if it's enough then? Or do I paint and apply the jumbo largest leaves that are here, even though they are out of scale for the tree, just to fill it in? Or do I go back to Michael's craft supply, hunt for the exact type of leaf, and buy another $100 bucks worth to paint and add for lushy full tree goodness, indicated in the right-hand photo above? Hmmm.

Leaf size increments: tiny (left), small (center), medium (right), are all on the tree now. The jumbo large (not shown) would be the next proportion size up, in other words, life size. Thus really too large for my world.

In other news: MOSSSSSSssssssss!!! Yes, the real mosses were added to the North side of the Answer Tree's trunk and branches today! It looks amazingly, wonderfully realistic in person. (Whatever camera I end up using to shoot this film, it had better have the ability to shoot for detail. The right lighting, which isn't here yet, will help too.)

So, here's the magic formula for eye-foolingly great tree moss: I used a sampling of real mosses collected on a forest walk in Washington state a couple years ago. The textures and colors aren't really available in floral supply or craft shops, so having the real stuff was fantastic. But the real magic comes in the form of the small packet of light green model railroad tree foliage material I bought at a model shop many years ago for Halfland. The texture of this stuff is partly stringy and partly flocky at the same time. It pulls apart into thin wisps of perfect scale grain to simulate real moss on this tree. I found that using YES! Stick Flat paper glue, that dries MATTE vs. glossy, yet holds strongly, was the way to go.

I smeared the gel-like paste where I wanted moss to grow. Broke apart the real moss into tiny clusters and pressed them into it. I filled in with the synthetic model train diorama material, pressing gently as I went with the heel of my hand. One could make it as flat or as dimensional as they like, either way it will look far more life like than paint alone might.

*Hand-painted leaf method, follow in order:

• Undersides painted first, stick leaves down face first onto large surface of either masking tape or shelf liner, sticky side up.
• Use burgundy, wine, and ochre acrylics, blending as you go w/craft brush. Dry brush veins and stems in contrasting color.
• Flip when dry onto fresh, sticky surface, pressing down all edges very well. Paint tops and stems w/several shades of greens including light yellow green highlights and let dry.
• Use sap green water brush to sketch veins on embossed tops. Blend back lines with a clean craft brush moistened with small amount of gloss medium.
• Touch up egregious errant paint blobs with matching markers or leave them as natural leaf blemishes, depending on how they look.
• Repeat several hundred times.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Leaf-Olympics: Day 6--Giving the Brush Off!

Another batch of leaves was painted today. Trying to finish off the supply of small leaves so I can move onto the next size up, as the tree is calling for. I experimented with different ways of painting the veining today.

First, on a few of the larger-sized leaves, I tried out a liner brush, with extra long bristles, in pale green (lower left.) It shows up as "painted" but I don't mind that for this project. Hand-crafted trumps realism in Halfland. But the best method so far, of course discovered at this middle stage, was one of Paul's super Bienfang watercolor brush pens. I stole* (borrowed, I mean borrowed, hi honey!) one of his never been used sap green, self-wicking brush nib on a refillable ink reservoir with controlled ink delivery. Quick brushed on a quick veining and then washed it back with a large, moist, empty brush to blend in the color (lower right). The dark green ink settles into the embossed channels nicely. This technique provided the quickest and most pleasing leaves to date. I plan to execute the rest of the leaves in this way.

Can. Not. Wait. to glue these leaves on--I see so many perfect spots that NEED to have a cluster growing, it's all I can do to move now to my graphic work that is due.

I'll squeeze it in at every spare moment.

*Don't you all agree that ANY item of art supply, if left unopened and completely UNUSED for a period over 6 months, is FAIR GAME for stealing by werking artist in the same house?! I do. Be warned.
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