Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Idea Hatched: Public Producer

Update: I pushed heavily today and finished the curtains and their cafe rings, the cast brass acorn brackets, and the branch rod with green leaves. Whew. Photos in the morning after the install. Collapsing into bed exhausted, which is a weird situation considering I thought making the curtains was only half an hour's worth of work!

Next Public Producer Item: • Finish working on walking the mechanism for the line of marching ants!

The other day in the comments Jessica Koppe and I cooked up an interesting experiment. We thought we'd initiate a sort of online public open-source producer website for our individual film projects. Self-enforced deadlines, et al, hadn't been effective for us because as lone productions there aren't really any consequences if we keep changing them.

Simple plan, we'd each formally announce each Monday the specific items on our pre-production lists and report the results each Sunday night. This was our first test week. Later on we hope to have "Produce It!" widgets on our sidebars flowing in from the new site.

The results already this week were excellent for Jessica. She made superb shadow puppets for her project.

My results were a total bonk. BUT I'm undeterred. I think I see where I went wrong and how to do better this week.

My task, at least the top item on my list, was to finish the kitchen curtains Cirelle and I stared 2 weeks ago. After I was spurred on by Jessica's success, I forced myself to work on them tonight until I went cross-eyed from exhaustion after a long day. I was annoyed at having to try to be creative on demand but really sometimes that's the only way to make progress. The acorn brackets are now drying overnight and I plan to paint them in the morning.

Let's roll on>>>>

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Kyra: Half and Half Makes Her Whole?

Somehow, blending the two images of Kyra together makes a much better sketch of her?! Huh? It's almost like I can draw!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Krya: Not Watered Down

Though not on the list, took some time to sketch main character, Kyra the black mermaid. Really helpful to discover new things about her so I can make her real. With cocoa-colored skin, she's on shore. In fauvist blue, is how she looks under the sea.

Last week was a Lost Week for me. A dream come true. A full 7 days doing odds and ends, none of which were on any list. Heaven. The only problem with it was that the cold kept me tethered to the computer the whole time rather than active in the workshop finishing fun things. I designed a pro bono logo, mastered folding paper image Kaleidocycles, and stayed bundled up.

I randomly started to create a Kyra close-up portrait. Here's what I knew. I knew I wanted Kyra to be black (There's no Africa nor America in Halfland so, I'll say, racially Negroid, and hope I'm understood.) Mermaids have most often been depicted as Caucasian with long following hair. I wanted Kyra to be a beautiful black-skinned mermaid with short curly natural hair studded with sea snail shells, like a Buddha. (bottom left shows a rare Buddha statue with bright blue snail hair!, things started connect up as I made the sketch) I knew the natural hair should be seen in between the shells, as it looks around the wooden beads bottom center. (I've have gorgeous right-off-the-sheep chocolate-brown wool bought in New York for Kyra's hair that looks for all the world like perfect puppet fro. It'll be so fun.)

I also loved the bright blue pigment on the skin of the African lads, upper left. Something otherworldly about them. African yet unearthly. (Have not/probably won't see Avatar, so this has nothing to do with that.) As I got immersed in the sketch process, and things accidentally took this sharp turn and then that one, it became crystal clear that there would be TWO ways Kyra would appear. One puppet will be painted as you see her on shore, a duplicate will be made with the blue skin and golden snail shells.

We see Kyra in the film series at several times in each mode, above and below waters. At the beach, in full life-size, she'll be black and beguiling. Undersea, she'll be the small-scale puppet, with deep blue skin and shimmering gold-leafed shells in her hair. Visiting Rana at the cottage she'll swim down the stream in blue and be collected in the barrel in brown. Her tail will glisten in her aquas and pale lavender mica scales on both figures.

Bottom left you can see the large scale clay sculpt of the character made in New York in 1993. The two sketches on top were based on the small (10 inch/25.5 cm) smaller pupp, and show how my mind has been developing this character. Can't wait to build and film her. Thank you for watching.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Krya: In Her Element

Parking the NEW! Kyra undersea sketch here until I can finish what she looks like on shore.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

100 Days of Progress:
"I'm Pretty Sure God Makes Strawberries This Way"

This has to be one of the best results I've had for Halfland to date. I love this strawberry plant. It was an unplanned improvisation entirely. It began when Cirelle wondered aloud whether the window box she was working on might have little berries growing in it. I loved her idea and set about seeing if I couldn't craft some, somehow.

I finished the entire plant and its twig trellis by last night and was excited for daylight to arrive to take the good photos above to show you. Here's more on how they were made...

I started rooting around for easy berry-like stuff while Cirelle was here planting on the kitchen box. I tried various sorts of Styrofoam™ and finally found that the micro cell injection foam packing material used to cushion electronics shaped easily and took paint perfectly (upper left).

Next I discovered that if a pulverized dried flower heads (a bit of them seen far right, upper right photo) and dyed them bright yellow (lower left) and brushed them on with my buddy matte medium (lower right) it gave me the amount of detail and texture I require in Halfland. Not too much, I didn't set each berry seed in place with tweezers for example, although I could have easily enough. But enough texture so that it feels a certain reality in the background of the film.

Each berry was finished off with tops made from stealing petals and leaves of various sizes from other paper flowers and painting them several shades of green. They were pressed down into the foam of the berries and secured with glue around a stem.

This could be one of the biggest thrills I've had in Halfland so far. Strange to feel that about a little background blossom I know. But it was one of those incredible moments of pure invention that satisfied like crazy. Actually, the entire Strawberry affair made me feel a little godlike. I kept saying to myself that I was positive that what I was doing was exactly the way God makes strawberries!

The blossoms I had to Google for. I had to collect a variety of images of the tiny white pentagonal flowers and their triumvirate leaves on my screen and keep walking back and forth from the shop until I grasped what these plants look like enough to render them sufficiently. I was amazed to learn that the blossoms become the berries. Those round yellow globes at their centers transform into the fruits, baring the seeds on the outer surface, all the better for the birds to eat!

I found that a snip off a fuzzy fiber from another silk flower would scale for the centers once dyed a brighter yellow. But my favorite part was my deciding to use yellow sewing thread, wound on a strip of cardboard, tied with fine wire, and snipped to make the splayed stamens behind the little globes. I used my new micro foam brushes from Kit Kraft to daub on two shades of burnt orange tinted medium to just the tips of the cut threads. Assembled the green paper calyx and white paper petals onto the twisted wire stems of the centers with a drop of glue. Painted the stems green and they were ready to be added onto the plant.

I used green vine-y cording from a placemat as the base for about 60 green paper leaves that were taken off of other store bought flowers that I hand-painted with acrylic and watercolor. I changed their shape by rounding them with serrated scissors and gluing them in trios on wire stems. Then each set of leaf, berry, and blossom, including the smallest still-green buds, got twisted onto the plant which in turn was woven into the hand-made twig trellis that had been planted in the windowbox.

I ate strawberry jam while making this little plant and thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. I think my discovering nature artist Graham Owen (thanks to Rob Ives suggesting an unrelated search) has inspired and impacted my way of approaching these types of natural props for Halfland. I owe you a post on who he is, what extraordinary things he creates, and why/what about it inspires me so much. Interested?

Girl Fridays Up Next... Cottage Curtains

Sketch for cafe curtains in the kitchen window. 

The next Girl Fridays task, when Cirelle comes over, will be to start on the window treatments. I have purchased perfect woven fabrics for both windows in the cottage. A sheer, pink, Swiss dot pattern for the under layer. And coarse, rustic, pomegranate-colored silk linen for the drapery layer over that to be pulled tight at night against the cold.

While I was shooting the spinning wheel, I noticed in the corner of the shot, a most intriguing shadow of one of the tree's acorns silhouetted against the fabric. It gripped me with ideas for scene reveals and poetic meditations for the film. Hmmmmmm.

Looking forward to Cirelle's fine help come Friday. Got the sewing machine ready!

An accident inspiring me to use the curtain fabric as scene reveals.

Cirelle, Out of the Blue!

Like a gift from heaven, Halfland now has a regular Friday art partner in studio! Remember Cirelle? She emailed that she couldn't wait to come help at Halfland again! What luck for me. She came last Friday and finished the second windowbox--beautifully I might add. And is planning to come next Friday as well, to help plant a herb cachepot for the kitchen sill and start on the lovely window treatments for the cottage.

She's excited to come here and make valuable contribution to the project, satisfy her need to be creative with her hands, learn a bit about stop motion (she's worked for years at an animation studio and studied art in college), and see if some of her stories might not like to be made into films too.

I'm not interrogating her, upper left, we talked so much it got dark and there's currently woefully poor lighting in the shop.

What's fun is that Cirelle has a natural gift for designing with plants, something I didn't *know* when asking her for those specific tasks. She could be the perfect person to help me plant the whole set landscape. That would be like a miracle. She's inventive as well. I told her the second box was for the kitchen window and she suggested Rana might be growing herbs there--what a great idea! After a while the idea for growing strawberries there too came up (see post after next for the fab results!)

Line Producer Kitty, made sure Cirelle's work was up to snuff. HA! And it certainly was!

Thank you, Cirelle! Really looking forward to this Friday!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Three Treasures for Halfland

It may not be Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, but over the holidays Halfland was showered with gifts from three wise and kind women:
Halfland's Spinning Wheel
The delightful D.J. Dyer found this vintage toy spinning wheel (it works!) in her super finding places and thought the scale might be right for 1/2L. She generously shipped it to me from British Columbia and wouldn't take anything for it! It's absolutely perfect! I never would have made a spinning wheel for Rana, contenting myself with her easier to make loom, but now that it's here, I think it's a fabulous addition to the cottage set.

On the left you see a photo of a VERY Rana-like woman at her spinning wheel (from wikipedia under spinning wheels) I'll be inspired by her mix of layers and stripes for Rana's costume, In the middle is D.J.'s wheel, as it arrived, in front of Rana's half chair/table. On the right is how it looks now that I've Halflandized it. I took it apart, studied spinning wheel function, carved the fly head down and shaped the clean edges on the base to look more rustic, painted it in the cottage's palette of ocher, red, and pink, solidly glued it together, rigged it with a band around the wheel to turn the spool, and actually hand-spun a length of colored wool to twist onto the bobbin.  D.J. also sneaked some sunflowers and a basket into the box. Thank you, D.J.! That was so fun to open and so incredibly useful to have for the project!

Halfland's OFFICIAL Naturalist, the marvelous Marcie Knowles sent me a charming package filled with fabulousness. I thought I needed more natural material in order to finish the chandelier for the cottage. So, rather than actually go outside, I wrote to Marcie and requested that she see if she ran across any tiny pinecones or acorns on her walks in the South. She jumped to the task like a soldier and off she and her husband went collecting incredible treasures! She not only sent the perfect cones and corns, but also clippings of Victorian era dancers and tree-lined streets, a set of over-sized insect wings, a glorious smelling block of natural beeswax, a tiny glass bottle filled with very very old dust from a very very old silver mine and wrapped lovingly in a rustic wooden box that screams to be made into a shadow box scene. Thank you, Marcie! That was so fun to open and so incredibly useful to have for the project!

As part of a surprise vintage gift pack from her forays into the finest Brocante (French Antique Fairs), the divine Corey Amaro included a goodly length of HANDMADE antique lace for me that looks for all the world as if made by talented spiders! It's beyond perfect for the edges of Rana's skirting and Corey knew it would be! Thank you, Corey! That was so fun to open and so incredibly useful to have for the project!

Friday, January 01, 2010

From Our Home to Yours: Holiday Greetings 2009

Fun and easy to put together
Happy New Year and my undying thanks for coming here and being part of Halfland's creation.

Long time readers here will know that Each year I design and fabricate our original holiday card in a limited edition of 100 for family and friends, many of whom I've met right here.

I thought I'd share about the making of this year's card on Jaime Zollar's Paper Forest site as it was entirely based on the most luxurious paper I've ever worked with. Thick as white whipped cream, and as flexible, without damaging, as if felted wool. I used no printing of any kind, no pieces to assemble, no moving parts, no hand-cutting, nor the usual 100's of hours these tricks required in past years.

Thick Italian Fabriano Medioevalis Stationery (and a good friend, Halflander, with a powerful laser cutter; Mark Fullerton at Precision Graphic Systems) bring this year's folk-style snowy village to life with its message left in crunchy footsteps.

If interested, this year's card story posted on the monster famous Paper Forest site
More photos, links, with captions posted on Flickr

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