Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Just Stand There... Move Something!

Friend of Halfland, animator, and armature fabricator supreme, Sven Bonnichsen, is launching a new animation festival, the NW Animation Festival. He's opened it up to entrants from all over the globe and in any form of animation.

Here are the details from the site:
The festival will be held on June 3-4-5, in the heart of downtown Portland Oregon at the historic 5th Avenue Cinema.

This is a festival created by animators, for animators, and all lovers of animation.

We are people who hunger to see MORE. Not just the year's top 10 shorts... We want to feast on the year's top 100!

We've thrown the door wide open for submissions. Films may come from anywhere in the world. You may submit films made at any time during your life. And you are free to simultaneously show your work online or at other festivals.

We know that great animation comes from all levels. Contributions from students, independent artists, and professional studios are all valued equally.

All types of animation are encouraged: hand-drawn, computer-generated, stop-motion... We attempt to program shorts blocks focusing on each method separately—both to educate, and to satisfy each methods' enthusiasts.

We strive to pack the weekend with as much animation as possible. But the festival is still bigger than just this. Select films go on to become part of our "Best of the NW Animation Fest" traveling show, which will tour the region during the following year.

For more, visit: or contact:
Best of luck with this, Sven! I'm encouraging all the animators I know to submit a short and I look forward to submitting scenes from Halfland myself to the festival next year!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bringing to the Fore

Here's a WIP preview of the sort of effect I'm after for the foreground set; inviting white-washed gate and fencing and a bough of leaves frames the scene. (Giant resting line-producer cat not to be included in final version of film. :-)

Dear Constance has begun construction on the foreground set. Last session, she began by hand cutting a stack of 24 pickets out of cedar shims and discussing what the ornaments might be on the gate.

In the days that followed, I built the gate, stained all the pieces brown, and then again with pickling white wood stain after that. I chose to top the two newel posts supporting the gate with matching wood and iron acorns. I placed them on the ends of a small wooden spool I cut apart on top of softened square stock ends. I really like how they came out. Making the miniature gate with working hardware (the gate will be opened during the shot) was satisfying.
 Making these wild flower tufts was rather quick and easy and should look quite pretty in the foreground around the fence I think.

I wanted some weeds and flower shrubbery to grow around the fencing so I picked up the clumps of DEAD kitty grass usually laying around the place (finally a use for these), dyed the clumps green and let them dry well. I then hit the tips with matte medium and sprinkled them with small pieces of colored paper while wet.

I have found a FAST and easy way to chomp a lot of paper into very small pieces is to fold torn pieces in your color group choices into a "roulade" (a tight roll used to make it easier to finely chop fresh herbs in cooking) and keep it in one hand whilst I repeatedly slicing at it between that thumb and forefinger. There's no danger of being cut because you can go slowly and make sure you are slicing only between fingers. But this method means that you can have the smallest pieces as you could wish in less than a mere 20 slices.

Last Friday, Constance was a huge help in helping me find a good position for the foreground set piece for camera POV, etc. She then papier mached the underside of the whole piece all alone! She also began installing the finished gate and fence by making holes in the set and macheing around each picket. It's looking fantastic and should come together well soon. Thank you, Constance!

Unnecessary Flowers

I auditioned several of the party-going bugs to hold this tiny bouquet of flowers but the damask butterfly above won the part because it just strikes me really funny somehow. Something about a mean-looking butterfly bringing a cheerful bouquet to a birthday party is cracking me up. :-)
This prop and the other tiny flowers made last week are entirely unnecessary to have been made. And I have learned well on this project that making teeny tiny things not only takes as long as the big impact large things, but it often takes even longer. My mind says it shouldn't. Small things are small and should therefore be fast to do. I have found this to be completely wrong. Rule #31: BEWARE: Tiny Can Take More Time Than Big. I still have no idea why that is.

This time it started when I was making tons of little flowers to grow along the new picket fence (please see next post) and I thought hey, I wonder if I used my teeny paper flower punch on sheer tissue paper colors (see left above) and layered them if they would look like petaled flowers too? Kinda-do!

I flocked the itsey centers (top) and attached each blossom onto fine dried twigs that were then painted with green tissue leaves added. I painted the bouquet with liquid porcelain and then repainted it green to have it be like a ceramic sculpture for no reason other than I love liquid porcelain, also for no reason.

The rest of these crazies daisies will grow in the Writing Mouse's Front Flower Garden to fill it out a bit more. An unneeded touch that I'm a little happy about.
And also for no damn good reason I took small pieces of hardware and fashioned them into tiny terra cotta garden pots for mini-mini red geranium props for outside the mushroom cottages. Above you see me attaching a painted cardboard slice onto a small piece of painted brass tubing with a tack as a saucer. I made 5 like this in various teensy sizes for use in the smallest Halfland set scale, like the Mouse's House Exterior and the Bug Party Cafe.
On the left you see the smallest real clay pot I could make a while back for this. But with this new batch I could get easily 1/3rd that size. The two smallest pots, made out of mini metal grommets, flanks another mushroom door and shows how the Village Landscaping will look when further finished out.

Breakthrough: Shadow Play

A few weeks back, while on the phone with Paul, I suddenly noticed that the figures on a ceramic vase on my desk cast a perfect shadow onto the Halfland painting that Sven made for my birthday last year. It looked as though one of the figures was sitting under the Answer Tree! I tried to keep it together during the conversation because it would have been a long story to explain and it was late at night. But I realized what needed to happen somehow at the end of the Halfland series, when my beautiful live actress (the one who is not a puppet) Rose Red plays with crude white paper versions of the Halfland characters, giving the impression the world here only ever existed in her mind.

This accidental concept should really give the film a more interesting finish.
To blur the lines further, I noticed the the large paper trees that Peggy drew for me (seen lower right) make great shadows on the new paper partition that now runs the length of our place. Above you can see the bamboo set in soft yellow morning light and with crisp strong halogen worklight. Unrelated but another cool thing about the partition, the Sumi-e warrior figure from a martial arts book on the lower left was made via an overhead projector. We can change the imagery in various ways.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Through the Roof!

Things are happening in the roofing dept in Halfland, happy to say. The second panel is done thanks to Cirelle and all we need do is plant the crepe paper grass on its dirt patch.

I took some time to add a few roots growing through the rafters into the kitchen so that Rana could reach up and break off a bit to throw into her soup pot. Why? Because....
During the heavy rains here a few weeks back a few parts of our ceiling fell down. Above you see our wonderful handiman, Damian, halfway (HA!) through patching a hole over my desk. When I saw what was underneath the ceiling layer, the lath and plaster layer, with its visible rafters, I had the idea to make a similar hole over Rana's kitchen so that roots growing on the top could be part of her dinner.

I loved the idea of a damage-caused skylight in there and how it alludes to a bit of the cottage construction. Cirelle shaped the hole by copying the one over our bed and I used broken shims and iron tacks to make the patch.

The real fun started when Constance brought me a special order root from her garden to use as the start of the detail. It was the most perfect root for this. It was fully dead and so very rugged and didn't require any preserving, the structure was exactly the size and shape I was after, etc. It's so nice to have a bevvy nature devas to work for me! Brava!

For the earth over the open patch, I painted large clumps of upholstery foam brown and then hit them with matte medium and dirt. This gave me plenty of flexible dirt pieces that wouldn't fall through the cracks in the rafters, yet would look like natural soil when seen from below. This technique is a keeper. Word.

Once the roots were in place and trimmed a bit, I painted on a top coating of matte medium to strengthen them further.

I love what they add to her home. And you can begin to feel how the cottage will feel with its roof fully installed; safe, quiet, nurturing. A place with great soup simmering, and a blanket for your legs as you sew by the fire.
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