Thursday, December 30, 2010

Countdown to John Ikuma's Fund Raising

UPDATE: THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED TO JOHN'S FUNDRAISING, LOOKS LIKE HE'S MADE HIS GOAL! Thanks to all! The film promises to be fantastic and I hope John will let us know if he needs anything further to git-'er dun. GO JOHN!

In addition to creating, writing for, editing, and publishing Stop Motion Magazine, John Ikuma has begun directing and producing a documentary all about the rolicking stop motion vibe happening in Los Angeles right now. There are so many fantastic projects underway and John has taken it upon himself to document as many as possible to share with the world.

He's interviewing many people you know and love {like. cough. me.} and might like to see more of. He's got $1,530 already raised for his $2,000 goal to fund the film. There's just 30 hours left in the campaign. Are you interested in donating too? Viva la Arts! Hop to it!

John thanks you I'm sure! (nicest guy in LA)

The Ugly

Talking to my dear friends, Darkstrider and Yaz via email, across the country and across the globe. I wanted them to see a dilemma I'm wrestling with regarding the set. Shot a few shots of the backside of the set (that which is not-ready-for-publication) to kind of give them a feel for what it would be like if they visited here in person.

I'm hoping they'll tell me what to do because this sort of thing is not my area. I decided to make it a post instead, to let all the ugly hang out for all to see. If I don't show all the challenges with the project as well as the triumphs then what good is it?

I'm not after making the set "properly built" or even remotely professional. What it lacks in construction will be more than made up for by the overall effect of the film by the time it's done. Creative shot set ups due to set limitations, erasing major uglies in post, etc.

So, thank you for taking a look and telling me what you'd do... (hopefully type/notes are large enough to read when clicked on?)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Field Report: My Annual Spiritual Pilgrimage

Wednesday was KIT KRAFT DAY, people! you know, the one day a year I'm in the area for another reason and can actually get myself to Kit Kraftapolooza in person! Sure their website is easy to navigate and their order processing is the fastest in the business, but nothing beats spending 3 hours there, poking in every single corner, checking out the new products, picking up essentials, finding creative inspiration.

Their sales people are sincerely cheerful and utterly non-pushy. Here the fabulous Sarah rings up my order (booty). It was a lot (I opted to grab 25 lbs of Ultracal to start to make the puppets in earnest) but Mike was great as usual and made it easy for me. With all the fun bits I bought, all I could say when I got the total was that that is a LOT of fun for that money.

Owner Mike Sitkin once again kindly shipped my Christmas card collaboration package down to Mark Fullerton. Why I always happen to have that vital and timely holiday package in my hand on Kit Kraft Day I'll never know. But Mike uses his Super Shipping Chute to get Mark the Xmas materials super fast. I just subscribed to their new bad ass blog too.

Check out the very cool Nightmare Before Christmas Trading Figures and Scenes he's got. They looked really neat and the price was good too. Great to grab if you're a collector.

Thanks, Mike and crew, Hope to see you next trip!

Sparsely Parsley

Cirelle and I collaborated on a way to integrate grass into the cottage roof on the low side that nearly blends into the hillside, which will have matching grass planted on it. She and I got as far as cutting fitted foam core to fit the gaps left in the shingled panel and covering it with paint and a layer of dirt.

I took it from there the next day and discovered several cool 1/2L. ideas in the process. That's often the magical gift of Cirelle and the other wonderful workers that come over to contribute, they resolve a solution with me and then I'm free and clear to simply create. They get me over any inertia and confusion and keep the project moving, inch by inch.

I've given the team the holidays off and plan to resume, with my strength restored, in January. Until then I'm on my own in Halfland, wanting to go 50 directions at once with a terrible yearning.

Mark Fullerton and I are collaborating and making Xmas 2010 in the meanwhile. Woot.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Halfland Special Guests: Sweet Hearts

Had the special treat of a rare visit from Portlanders Sven Bonnichsen and Gretchen Lair of Scarlet Star Studios. Passionate animator friends and supporters of art and artists. I've known them both for years online, had met Sven once before in 2007, but never had the delight before of getting to fleshy-see the darling Gretchen.

They were at the tail end of an epic Stop Motion tour through LA stop motion houses during the holidays and stopped overnight in Halfland before heading back up for home.

Two nicer and sweeter people you'll never meet. They both find magic everywhere they go. If they found themselves in Hell they'd admire the pretty colors the flames were reflecting against the hell cave. They're thoroughly charming! (As it was we nearly froze them out here during the night in this big drafty heatless loft. We gave them every blanket in the house, a hot water bottle, an electric bed pad and the poor dears shivered trying to stay warm using a paltry heating pad. But other than that they had a marvelous time with us! brrrr.) Being Gretchsven, they made the most of it. I'm so glad I got a chance to sit and visit and get to know them both a wee bit better than the internet will allow. Sensitive, thoughtful, sweet-natured, intelligent.

Have these people over! They bring homemade caramel sauce!

Sven was gripped by the armature Yuji made in Tom B's workshop.

Sven caught taking photos of other Halfland visitors.

Come again soon, you Darling Lovebirds!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Topping It Off

We are in the midst of constructing the cottage roof and it's coming out so wonderfully, it may take the whole place into a whole new level of cozy richness.

Cirelle and I have been struggling to install several roof joists in the cottage based on discussions I've had about it with Yuji and Shel during their visits. It's a complicated task as I need each panel of the roof to be removable for filming access and yet be independent from the walls in some places--nevermind it's nuts. To make matters worse, I started off by using free hardwood scraps I picked up from a scrap bin and they have been tough/impossible to get screws into, etc. but I'm too stubborn to replace them now.

What has worked is making a paper pattern for the space between the joists and using the pattern to get the odd shape in cardboard. Cirelle painted each side of the cardboard with a wash of brown (inside side) or redwood (topside side). She perfectly hot glued on cedar shims for the interior of the roof that I stained the next morning with various shades of wood dye and walnut ink (seen above on left looking up from the floor with the first panel set above the bed, behind the new red canopy being built beautifully by Carol.)

Cirelle in in the process of hand placing each cut and stained cedar shim shingle using a clever pattern of her own design. The giant pail of shingles I've had ready for the whole roof have nearly been used up on just the first panel... so, I'll need to get about 10 more packs to cut down and get ready for the rest.

One of the problems with a long term project is that I forget ideas by the time the build time comes around. I recall preparing to use redwood lathing strips for the interior rafters. But I actually think the cardboard covered with shims end up looking nicer, thanks to Cirelle's skill.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Halfland Character Development: Tarn

fyi, (a great custom print company) is having a 72 hour sale on all printed products so I thought to grab the opportunity and get a set of miscellaneous art cards made up.

Each card can be a different image with them (!) so I chose a few random art images from the project and others to have made.

While I was looking for character sketches, I came across the development folder for the Tarn sketch. I thought you might like to see some of the intermediate stages of transformation from human to Halfling that took place in Photoshop via layering, coaxing, and finessing.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Halfland Puppets: Handicapped Butterflies

I always envisioned Halfland's Handicapped Butterflies as beautiful and winsome creatures with exquisite wings and clearly human bodies. They are called handicapped because their forms would be misshapen, deformed, or disabled in some obvious way, not to be crass or insensitive. I wanted them to make an elegant statement as they silently flew past us in the garden that while their human bodies may be impaired, it didn't matter at all because they were quite gracefully able to fly. My point was that a hampered body need not make one useless or of no consequence. As a matter of fact, in Halfland such things are perfectly accepted as part of normal wonderful life.
 I used hyper lightweight air dry fluffy clay mixed to a light flesh color. It took me and Constance a while to get the hang of how to sculpt such a small figure. I was after the impressionistic style of form that my friend Ronda was known for in her ceramics (see the vase she made for me in the middle behind the foam block, the one with women sitting around the top.) I found the best way for me was to make the bodies in sections; legs, torso, heads and arms, that would be attached with 34 guage wire after they cured the next day. Minute details like vertebrae, calf muscles, knees, elbows, nipples, heels, etc. were added under magnifier with small brush and Omnigel.

 Constance delved into Google to find us a selection of butterfly wings that we printed out to scale. I used Omnigel coated wax paper as their material and traced their patterns in pastel chalks and flocking powders.
When I finally paired each finished nude human body with each finished set of wings I was disappointed that they looked too much like fairies, which wasn't what I was after at all. I wanted a more Fine Art, serious result and these were coming out pretty cutesy-pie. Frustrated, I went back in with a vengeance with a blade and hacked them all into slimmer limbs and smaller faces. I glued legs together and flocked their bodies in an effort to make them cross back over into being more insect-like in the bodies. Added and hand striped my finest wire as antenna, which photographs as still too thick.

I'd say that only 2 or 3 survived the make-over as viable characters. I set them on Carol's stunningly lovely finished Teacup Rose trellis on set to see if that helped their effect somewhat. Still not sure.

I did my absolute best with them, although I'm not sure I succeeded.  I learned a lot about sculpting tiny figures and am much more adept at it after this experience. While I'm proud of the success of such tiny sculpts in general, I'm not sure they are up to snuff for the film.

I made them so small that I wonder if the effect I wanted would even be possible at this size. I spent so many hours making these over the last two weeks that I have to declare them all done at this scale for now, try them for distant shots in the garden, and may end up trying to make them again, larger for close-ups, after everything else is done.

Read Her Palm

Isn't this gorgeous?! It the finished palm tree that one of Halfland's Angel Army made during the last few months of her Friday visits. It's just exactly right for Halfland, hand-made, almost real looking, made from humble, simple materials through artistry. It'll look amazing next to the Serpent Sage Musician's desert tent in the film's last scene.

Sherie from the Sea, a very special regular Halfland Helper, started making the desert palm with me last summer. We cut leaf shapes out of ordinary brown grocery bags and layered them over iron wire and painted them rich greens. Many lent a hand cutting each leaf into fine angled fringes.

We covered a series of cardboard tubes with rustic brown papyrus paper, found at Pearl Paint, to simulate loose striated bark. She took her time add carefully added tiny strands of coconut fiber in between each fold of the bark. She collected fallen bamboo husks to use as the bottoms of fronds at the top of the tree. She finished the look perfectly by adding dyed corn husks over the palm date clusters. Speaking of them...

Dates happen around here. In the middle of all this creativity, my friend, (the talented photographer who shot the image used in the new banner) David stopped by to shoot the goings on and promptly got his heart completely stolen by Miss Sherie. (Who could blame him?! She's divine.) All everyone here knew was that David sure enough hung around that night after the shoot "helping" Sherie by painting the dates purple for her tree! (that's him auditioning them for her, bottom right) They closed down the place, talking, laughing, and giggling for hours, and then grabbed a coffee together after I threw them out--I mean asked them to leave! I got a one-word email the next day from David, "Wow."

Halfland dating indeed! l'Sigh. l'Amore. Muse R Us©.

So now with the tree all done and marvelous, I've assigned Sherie to start construction on the Musician's tent next. I've already dyed the old clothes that will be its fabrics in deep yellows and pale saffrons. One of the first tasks Sherie ever did here was to overpaint a collection of brocades several shades of bright orange for this same character's costume. The desert scene (Film 3 in the story outline) seems to be a perfect-fit niche for Sherie.

I Call Her

Only about 6 months LATE! I can now tell you about a special Halfland guest artist from last June.... Mariah! At the time she was just 14 (3 YEARS YOUNGER THAN HALFLAND ITSELF!!! please never speak of this again.) Now who can say how old she is. She probably has 2 kids in college. Nevertheless, it was very special having her here because every time her uncle Peter and aunt-in-law Pauli (in yellow below) would visit her family on the East Coast they would regale Mariah with tales of Halfland and it's magicalness.

As she grew, she become fevered to come and visit this place she could only see on the blog. One day last summer, she and her mom made their way out to the coast to visit. Being a great host, Pauli gave Mariah a long list of fantastically fun tourist destinations for her to choose from to do during her week-long visit. She requested to only come to Halfland... to work.... TWICE! (sigh, I could not have been more delighted!) She's the kind of young person I admire! Why sit on a beach sipping tea or go shopping for cute things when you can build a mushroom village?! Exactly.

Pauli (dear long time friend of my husband and myself), Mariah, and her lovely and funny mom, Margi, spent two days here cutting all manner of vegetation and telling funny stories. They are a total blast to hang with and the girls in blue above live far too far away.

Mariah was happy to really get involved in the set building. She helped me add tiny doors on mushroom houses and landscape their porches with small geraniums and stones. She darn near built the waterwheel that powers the bug's party lights in the stream by herself too. (see her concentrating on it like a maiden in a classical painting at the top) Margi and Pauli wailed away on the crepe paper grass planting on the meadow.

More than anything else it was so encouraging to have someone like Mariah interested in spending her vacation time on the project. I found her to be at once knowing, innocent, honest, and charming.

I'm tardy in saying so here, but I want her and her cohorts to know that their coming here, appreciating and helping build the set meant the world. Thank you, Dears, thank you.

Next time you're out this way I hope you'll stop by and see what we're up to.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Birthing Yanu

Meet Yanu, the owner/wearer of those lovely silk Luna moth wings just made. I wasn't expecting to make him now and then BAM! Here he is! Very quick sculpt. But then, Halfland is all about transformations. The transformations from one thing into another, like the caterpillar to a moth, like day into night, like a lump of clay into a living creation.
Tape and wire armature attached to wooden square stock on base. Paper wings that were used as the pattern for the silk version were attached for scale as clay musculature was added in layers.

His face went through several transformations, the last a surprise to me. (Click to enlarge for reading notes.).
It was a challenge to articulate facial features the way I wanted on a sculpt the size of a walnut. I finally resorted to a magnifying visor worn over my specs and knit cap. I may look funny but I'm thrilled that Yanu has arrived.

Friday, October 01, 2010

On a Prayer and a Wing

Constance and I dove right into making Yanu's Luna moth wings and started working out a technique that turned out so well I believe I'll make all the rest of Halfland's insect wings with this exact method.

This could be my favorite Halfland build so far! After Constance and I built the bamboo grove set (I'm so behind in posting you likely don't even know yet about Constance, or the bamboo grove!), we started constructing/designing the illuminated moon lantern that the Mothman character, Yanu, will carry through the grove in the dark (you heard me!) Then somehow, one thing lead to another and all of a sudden Yanu himself started wanting to be finally realized in the flesh.We started puppet building with Google, calling up as many images and videos of Luna moths as we could wish for. (The age we live in offers increasingly awe-inspiring privileges in its making it so effortless to have all that we need at hand to create.)

I strung an old piece of silk voile on a large quilter's hoop and secured the fabric all around with tape. Affixed scale print outs of the character's wings to acetate to the underside of the fabric with more tape. Next I used fine (34 metric gauge) gold wire lengths and positioned them as "ribs" in the wing structure, using the print outs as the guide. These wires were held in place with the use of straight pins pushed through all the layers, to make the ribs curve and stay close to the silk.
Then several coats of matte medium on both sides were applied to adhere the gold wires in place. I mixed a custom florescent UV reactive paint, to capture the Luna moths' elusive, delicate blue green color, and hand-colored the wings on both sides over the dry matte medium layer. Walnut ink and dye was used to tinge the edges for an organic look.

To securely sandwich the wire structure between 2 layers of silk, I brushed on a flood of matte medium, carefully pressing down the new top layer tightly around each little wire. The resulting durable wings are animatable, due to arcs of aluminum at the top of each wing part, and the thin gold wires supporting well the shape. And yet it's all still nicely translucent as well (see back lit photos just above).
Then came my Graham Owen-inspired moment. One of the reference images I had from a moth and butterfly macro photography book showed the phenomenal feather-like texture of these wings, including the elaborate mosaic that make up the four "eyes" on the wings. I started painting the ovals organically with yellow paint (as seen doing above) and used many colors of flocking powders and chalks to emulate the eyes on both sides You can see the feathery texture the flocking powders give when seen through a magnifier above. I dusted each segment of each wing on both sides with white flocking powder, to avoid coating the wires.

Once fully painted, I freed each wing part from the hoop by cutting around the paper pattern shape I had been following. I layered the top and bottom wings, shaping the frill of the tails with the wires, and was blown away at how beautiful, natural, and functional these came out. My newest 1/2L thrill.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fireside: No Chat

No time for much detail. Things busier than ever, even. Preparing for giving art workshop for 60 "non-artists" this weekend, great madness. And still the Halfland Army marches over here to work on the set twice this week as well. Old friend from New York visiting, finishing book project, etc. Had to pop in to show something in Halfland that was finally finished a while back, before the fray.

I'll let the photos tell the tale of the beautiful cottage hearth. Crepe paper, chalks, paints, super shiny threads from silk cellophane glued on. Deer moss painted with florescent ember colors, hit on the surface with ashen grays. Sewn onto wire mesh base as ashes. Mini firewood made from dried twigs hand-split with hammer and chisel.

Iron crane swings kettle in and out for heating water for a cuppa. Made very stable and smooth moving by forging custom metal mechanism and attaching it to the hearth with Sugru silicone. Hearth is lit inside by special candle flame bulb fitted and connected to an outlet via hole cut into set underneath the tree. (Bottom two right hand side images taken by photographer friend, David Sand. More great stuff from his visit here in store.)

Lookie there, I talked even when I didn't think I could.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Where the Bugs Go

The Halfland garden needed mushrooms. The mushrooms needed red plaid tablecloths. These made it look like a cafe. The cafe needed tiny cups and saucers for the cafe and to appear as spots.

It went on from there folks!

Since the photos above, the entire outcropping of mushrooms became instead the bug party cafe where grasshopper waiters swing down from the buggy paper lanterns to serve nectar and pollen cupcakes to the drab insects in fancy dress petals and dancing shoes!

The entire matter is OUT OF CONTROL adorable and will require being made into it's own puppetry illustrated story book as soon as the film series is completed.

For how I made the tea service check the Paper Forest blog....

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Halfland Army

An absolute troop of wonderful people have been coming over to Halfland regularly to help build the set(s)! How can I express my gratitude? (Dusting off this precious blog to dash off a peek of part of why I've been away so long!)

It's an incredible turn of events over here. Without my doing anything to promote it, there have been a steady stream of great people lending their time and talents here over the past few months and it continues!

Some are professional animators, some just like the creative outlet, some come twice a week (!), some come once a week, some come in the evenings on Fridays, some were up here installing lighting fixtures and were recruited for a minute, some (a teenager!) requested to visit here (twice!) on their family trip to Los Angeles!

As this small sampling of photos suggest--things are happening!

It's more than what the people accomplish during their time here. It's the effect of their coming over that causes me to get organized and very clear about what needs to be done, and who could help with what. What are the things I need to do myself so that the film remains my personal expression. And what tasks can be collaborated on and in some ways delegated gratefully to my awaiting, newly-formed Halfland Posse.

All this human energy is getting transformed into this film series while genuine friendships, kindnesses, (even romances!) are happening along with it. Los Angeles readers of the blog are welcome to join in Friday evenings from 5 – 8 pm. Contact me with a request.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quickie*: Exterior Miniature Landscapes (in progress)

Quickie*: Exterior Miniature Landscapes (in progress)
Originally uploaded by Nobledesign

Cirelle is a goddess who knows nature by heart. She explained about Riparian plants near water as we built this setting for the amazing Time Frog puppet.

*Fast talking, brief vid grab of current batch of progress on Halfland set. Still photo posts with more detail are planned.

Quickie*: Cottage Interior 1 (in progress)

Quickie*: Cottage Interior 1 (in progress)
Originally uploaded by Nobledesign

The birds need help. But since they were made I got better tactics for making the pupps. May try again to get it right.

*Fast talking, brief vid grab of current batch of progress on Halfland set. Still photo posts with more detail are planned.

Quickie*: Cottage Interior 2 (in progress)

Quickie*: Cottage Interior 2 (in progress)
Originally uploaded by Nobledesign

The list is getting longer instead of shrinking but I can't imagine cutting out any drop of this fun.

*Fast talking, brief vid grab of current batch of progress on Halfland set. Still photo posts with more detail are planned.

Quickie*: Attic (in progress)

Quickie*: Attic (in progress)
Originally uploaded by Nobledesign

A lot more to document but it's THRILLING to see it all come together now.

"A 20 year sprint" is what I'm calling it now.

*Fast talking, brief vid grab of current batch of progress on Halfland set. Still photo posts with more detail are planned.

Quickie*: Left Bank (in progress)

This is the kind of thing that moves me most. "Is that what I think I see?" Halfland let's me make my own illusions in nature, physically with my own hands.

*Fast talking, brief vid grab of current batch of progress on Halfland set. Still photo posts with more detail are planned.

Quickie*: Bug Party Set (in progress)

Wasn't on The Build List but sort emerged itself. Mushrooms, plaid mushrooms, plaid mushrooms with tiny doors and porches, plaid mushroom houses with tiny plates and tea cups and saucers for spots, a cafe. A cafe for bugs. A cafe for bugs to party at night. A party for bugs with tiny paper lanterns shaped like bugs as if made from old chrysalis, petals and seeds. Party lights powered by the stream via a water wheel... you get the idea!

*Fast talking, brief vid grab of current batch of progress on Halfland set. Still photo posts with more detail are planned.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

No Internet for a bit: Working on Halfland

Cat vomit + surge suppressor + my ham-fisted attempts to reconfigure + no one handy to help deep tech = no internet at home for a bit.

BUT!!!! There's so much action going on in Halfland, I'm a just little wee bit glad!

I was showing Sherie around the progress last night (after she and I were building an incredible paper palm tree for the desert set!) and I was taken aback by what I was showing her. I mean I've been having the time of my life building things for the project but to see how much has been actually done now and how truly pleased I am with the way its all turning out was kind of an objective progress report. One that I am surprised at loving this much. My only regret at the moment is not having the ability/time to document it here. It's a criminal lack of wonderful information at this point! Photos are archived already of each step however.

I'm hatching a slick, fast plan to catch readers here up on (what I feel are) the AWESOME results!

In the meanwhile, trust that I'm wailing away on all fronts of it in bliss.

Be well, each of you, and may you enjoy these precious days of making your art. I remain your fan.

[written from dear Paul's office laptop]

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Flash Post: Spider Lives in Attic

spider lives in attic, originally uploaded by Nobledesign.
I loaded all the attic goods into the loft shelf and secured them with hot glue. I noticed that the sacks of fleece would make a good background for the Knitting Beetles. And also that there was a cozy spot behind everything where a spider could live and work. If I make twig and wire mullions in a certain way and aim a strong direct spotlight at that window. an illusion is created where it looks as though he is in a full web, half the web made from shadow. I just need to raise him up on something (here in the above mock up I'm using a lump of stuffing to test the shadow)

Flash Post: Mouse House Exterior

mouse house exterior, originally uploaded by Nobledesign.
This elaborate exterior landscape for the Mouse's house was entirely unplanned, FAST to make, and so charming as part of the larger set! I plan to show the details of turning dead house plants into mini olive and cherry tress, planting a mini raised bed veggie garden, and tiny roses for the bramble gate and fencing.

Exceeding fun limits over here.

Flash Post: Cottage Loaded

cottage loaded, originally uploaded by Nobledesign.
Really helpful placing the furnishing and props into the cottage interior. It not only looks amazing when I turn around from my computer to get up and am smacked by this TOTALLY REALIZED LIFE that some small being is dwelling in. After getting everything in but the food, I can see that the place could really be lived in, if one fit. Cooking could be done. Sleeping, sewing, resting, thinking, visiting with friends, enjoying the fire, etc. It's all there now.

Discovered a few things; one, is that the Marching Ants would be by far easier to animate across the sturdy cemented window sill rather than the awkward to work on slat flooring. Two is that slat flooring actually makes creaking sounds exactly like a real old floor! (note to the sound dept.). I learned I need to lower the chandolier slightly. I learned that the table and chairs should be right in the middle of the space instead of against the bay window (removed from set above).

And most importantly of all, I learned to STOP making things now! It's full. Fully packed with detail, marvelous detail and vignettes. It works.

All I need still do to the interior is:
Install tufts of grass along the floor's edge.
Finish the bed canopy.
Install the Bee hive under the roots.
Install the Bird's nests.
Make the Caterpillow for the bed.
Finish the rose wallpaper panels and blend that treatment into the wine color of the rest of the walls.
Glue everything down.

Add a roof and coppola to the exterior, pickle it in white, rig a water bucket pulley, construct a porch, and calm the Signs of the Apocolypse around the globe, and we're ready to start shooting!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

How will I ever catch you up? Puppet Building Underway

Finally, after many long years, I finally have an animatable Pink Snail puppet completed. It's all entirely flexible and can ripple at the edges.

Two important things about this post. One is that puppet building has commenced in Halfland in earnest. Making the Koi puppet from foam ignited my ability to make all the characters EASILY! EASILY EASILY! No sweat whatsoever, just the fun parts. The four main characters will still be cast from molds (more on the wild method/material solution I've been using in the next posts), but now the rest of the cast won't be. Heh.

Using the build-up method instead is not only knocking out these long-standing puppets but also giving me a chance to test material and techniques for the more featured puppets later on.

Built around two tie down points, this foam fellow has twisted wire inside its length (finishing at the lower lip loop), and metal gutter mesh on the underside all the way to the fluted edges of the sides. I used two glass beads for the eyes, from a pair of earrings Cirelle donated, secured into rubber tubing eye stalks filled with wire. It's all one piece deep within the wooden head parts. The top layers were paint, flexible cement, and heavy gloss medium.

It's embarrassing to say, but I'm choosing to say everything here just as-it-is regardless. It's not deeply meaningful or anything profound to me, just a throw away subconscious joke, like the Knitting Beetles, or Lightning in a Bottle, etc., but the Pink Snail with the home on her back, is partly meant to be female genitalia-like, as well as just storybook sweet.

When I was young, a girl was joking about girls leaving snail trails if they were dragged along (I know, sorry, but it stuck in my subconscious), and the whole sort of slick glossy pink undulating flesh thing that snails are, added to the feeling. The shape and two ovary/fallopian tube-like eyes cinches the metaphor for me.

I was really worried about having such an overtly sexual element in this (notwithstanding Yanu's visible hoohah and the whole snake/male muscle deal with the sage.) I think I'm a prude really. So as I was making the puppet above, I thought of changing the color to a more realistic color and avoiding the whole treacherous vagina idea... then from the Weirdness Dept.... as I started to paint the finished puppet with a WHITE base coat [see lower right above], W H I T E mind you, no color at all anywhere on the brush, water, table, etc. it brushed on PINK!!!! On its own. I swear it's true. The pale color pink you see in that photo appeared on its own. I took it as a sign to go ahead as I'd always intended and I just went for it, even telling you all what she/it represents here. So, there it is.

Probably the best news is that I not only finished the puppet at last, but also her house to a 100% level.

I rigged her porch lantern with a yellow painted balloon LED (My favorite little special effect trick b/c they're so cheap and easy--that's doesn't sound right given this post). I painted her window box with more colors. I added fiberfill smoke wisps to her chimney. And although it won't likely ever be filmed, you should know that inside her tiny floral wall-papered house is a painted portrait of her mom.

Already begun construction on the large scale garden path near the cottage for her to lumber through in the evening rain.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Halfland Hommies*: The Fringe Element

Last Friday was a very special Girl Friday. Not only could Cirelle make it, but also Nancy and Sherie! They all rearranged their schedules (one took a half vacay day!) to generously contribute to Halfland. They all have worked together in the past, get along fantastically, and are glad to see each other here. I can't describe the boost they gave me and the project by coming en force and launching the "Big Planting" of the set.

Cirelle & Nancy car-pooled and arrived for the first few hours of the day to have lunch and start cutting the crepe paper greens into beautiful grass fringe bundles. Then as Sherie arrived, it was time to start planting the tufts. Each Hommie was given a set of gardening tools to poke a hole in the set landscape, hot glue a drop in the hole, and hold a bunch of blades in place until secure. Immediately I noticed how much a few sprouts made the whole terrain come alive.

A lot of progress is happening here that I hope to get to post soon, all while I'm otherwise busier than ever as well. I have to think it's the quality of these extraordinary people lending their refined energy and support that are helping to make things happen.

In one of my favorite photos for the blog, Downstairs Jean, an avid Notes reader, shows off her wacky sense of fun perfectly.

AS if that wasn't enough, our fabulous downstairs neighbor, Jean, allowed herself to be kidnapped for a bit for grassing purposes on Monday as well. She made ideal turf tufts and planted a wee hill with them. While she was here I got to brain storm methods and materials for blending these tufts into the bare soil easily so that less tufts will b e required to get the effect over all.

I used bleach and other mediums to try to manipulate the crepe paper blade tips. The crepe paper looks great as grass. The texture, the tensile strength, the loft, the light translucency, all conspire to fool the eye in the right way.

Be careful everyone, if you live anywhere near Halfland you may find yourself helping to build a tiny world.

Thanks to all my Tuft Tuffies, Halfland Hommies, Poking Pretties, Hole Hens, and Wild Grass Gardners. You all make mounds of joy.

(*So named after Nancy mis-read my "Welcome Halfland Hunnies" message on the kitchen chalkboard! Loved her version better!)

Friday, April 30, 2010

Catching Up: Playing Koi

The pond is turning out so well, it called for a single koi to be seen rising from the murky depths to the water surface. Behold the Koi of Enlightenment. These underwater shots knock me out!

I had in mind to make a koi that looked like Chinese Joss prayer papers, all bright oranges and shiny gold. I meant this to be quick but it became intense yet incredibly useful. It was such a total blast making a puppet with carved foam that it got me hopped up to make most of the supporting puppets this way. (More on them as these posts roll out.)

Using that toy fish, that was in my mouth in earlier test shots, I snipped out a fish shape from a scrap of upholstery foam. Slit it open to insert and secure a simple twisted wire armature for fishy tail swishing. Here's where it all get ingenious by accident. I used the right-sized mesh nylon tuile applied with heavy gel gloss medium all over which looked for all the world like fish scales when painted. After my cat's eye paint failed to give the illuminated effect I wanted (post on that later) I gold-leafed his top-half (the eye was covered in gold leaf here, but his real eye underneath (see photo below) was made from gluing an acrylic halfdome onto a piece of real joss paper gold giving a most effective illusion of illumination in them)

This is where it got fun. I started hitting the scales with the orange paints and chalks, lightly over-brushing with white for definition. I could have/should have left him there. He looked cool and pretty. But oh no, I had to try new things and go too far. Heck, it's all a new thing, how could I know how far too-far was?

In any case I dropped tiny beads of clear glazes onto each of his scales which gave him a lumpy grotesque look rather than mystical. I then toned all that down with (of course) walnut ink which made it now no longer pretty, even when I tried brightening him back up and filling in his surface terrain with layers of clear medium until it was flush. I added matte medium to real orange feathers for his fins, fishy moustache, and tail. I could have worked his tail further to get that great graceful billow koi tail often have but I'd learned my lesson. In some cases, good enough is great.

Hey, what do you know? This is the Koi of Enlightenment after all! I discovered the technique I'll want to use to create the main character Kyra the mermaid's aqua blue tail now!
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