Sunday, October 28, 2012

Shop's in Shape

The only way I could fit into the bedroom is because these older places have very large walk in closets. I took $20 worth of plywood and made it into shelving with minimal intrusion to the closet walls but enough to secure for quakes.

Sets stowed on top shelf, trays of materials for still-needed props on middle shelves, heavy metal card file, with 22 very deep drawers (open drawer on right above is only about 1/3 way pulled open, plus--they come all the way out on a rolling tray, separately.) now with colorfully painted fronts, holds odds and ends for building.

Paints stowed in rolling racks on the floor, long plastic boxes on top of drawers hold puppet/character materials, one box for each of the main seven pupps left to build, their wool hair, their dyed fabrics for costumes, etc,
At the other place, I had acres of raw walls that I could cover with as much project reference material as I could ever want. Here there is zero, so I had to come up with another way to keep these images, growing all the time, as the web relentlessly shows helpful shots to grab. It took a week, but I managed to go through all the images and sort out only the boards that still needed to be referred to, putting the things already done away-away.

The boards still in play were then sorted by subject, clipped together, and labeled with large masking tape flags. These are kept like a giant loose leaf book of sorts. They're kept upright in the closet, one in an old board portfolio, wedged between the paint caddies and the closet wall opposite the drawers.

As each subject needs to be looked at, I look through the "book", pull the bundle and will put them up on a clothes line or something near where working.

The room actually has gorgeous polished hardwood floors. But in order not to damage them while living here, we had a roll of Ram Board put down before anything else was moved into the studio. The other day I installed a $19 plain canvas drop cloth, using double-sided duct tape, over the $50 Ram Board in the middle of the room so I wouldn't have to read the words all over the Ram Board and see the black tape lines.

Now I can work in here without concern. It's a tighter fit. But will make it work.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Cats Move In

Couldn't find Izzy one night after looking in all her known hidy places. For some reason I checked the cottage (upper left). I snickered pretty hard at seeing she had thrown the blanket off the bed and curled right up on Rana's bed, sassy style. Since then, I find her in the cutest positions in there every day. I laugh. She is extremely shy. Any photos of her are very rare.
Not to be outdone, the darker grey bossy boots FeLINE producer Cloud had to see how it was in there for herself just because she is in charge.

Friday, October 26, 2012


 The Stones Coming Conscious are now meditating among the other rocks and odd parts of time pieces that have washed ashore.

Under the Bounding Maine

Skinned the set pieces that had a lot of scene detail on them down to the plaster layer. Too messy to use, dust everywhere, paper machéd the back sides (with Christine's needed help). Took a week. Painted the back sides blue to use as an ocean set when needed, why waste the undersides? (sky components being painted medium blue in middle shot)

Took another week on the floor to seal all set piece edges with masking tape and flexible cement then repainted the entire top sides to look as natural as possible. Close-up texture details, only where specifically needed for actual shots in the film, are added while sitting at a table back in the studio.

Halfland Hero: Dick Kaneshiro

True friend, moco master, professional animator, and fellow stop mo head, Dick Kaneshiro
graciously came over several times, from pretty darn far away mind you, and built Halfland's new professional stages! I learned so much working on them with him. Now I know how clamps can make construction so much smoother.
I think Dick should use this shot for cards, so cute.
I NEVER would have known what to build nor how to build it nor been able to build it without Dick's amazing help. Thank you, my Halfland Hero.

Halfland Hero: Win Hampton

Before during and after the hell storm of a move. The set rotates on the stages, Dick built. The rest of the landscape set pieces can be propped up and layered on as needed.
From the sad, Dark Days of the move. Win Hampton, extraordinary craftsman (he's built his own homes in other states) appeared out of nowhere to perfectly dissect and move the set on his own with Noah's help.
Here's Win's secret method of reassembling the tree at the new location; wood blocks and screws. (I'm making a map of these screws with clear tape, like a sewing pattern, made on the tree, so that I know where the buried treasure is should I ever have to disassemble the tree again [cue whimper].)
He helped restart my building mojo and helped with the tough stuff to get me going again.
I will always be grateful to Win. Thank you, Halfland's Hero.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Face the Caterpillow

I'll have to tell you who this amazing person is, and how she happens to be sitting in my sun porch sewing a PERFECT face for the Caterpillow puppet, another time. For now you need to know her name is Christine, an accomplished artist, extremely intelligent, and has a pure, delightful way of being.

First thing this morning when Christine came to work on the production (!), I showed her a photo I'd taken of a pillow lying on a table near a window, noticed as I was waking up recently. I tilted the photo sideways (upper left) to express to her how I'd had the notion to make the Caterpillow puppet's face hit that marvelous HALFness ambiguity by using the natural shape pillows make rather than simply imposing features onto fabric.

She, being she, noticed a board of folded paper faces I had in the shop and realized afresh that they held good solutions to employ for this, a connection I never would have made. Just Right.

I sat and talked her ears off as she brilliantly used needle and thread to render a character into the miniature pillow previously prepared for this pupp. Christine's sensitivity to what I was hoping for was astounding. She created a character that I'm sure exceeded what I would have thought of/been able to make. I absolutely LOVE her result with it!

She took wire arms that I'd been twisting while she sewed and fed them carefully through the inside directly to line the features of the soft sculpture so that the character can be animated to give a little yawn (!!) as Rana the main character settles into bed.

(Coming soon; The Case for the Face.... hint, tea stains and scallops)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tiny Things

The little clip was found on a flashdrive inside the box and shows Jeff's adorable (!) son, who wasn't even conceived of when Halfland's blog was begun (!!), mentions that he's collecting the pine cones for Halfland. Such a lovely gesture for Jeff to have thought of this and to send it! I am deeply touched by their kindness. A keeper for always. Thank you, Guys!

It was great fun to get such a surprise in the mail. It had a charm and magic to the gift that feeds the soul. It arrived to my box Wednesday from long time blog-friend, artist & animator, Jeffrey Roché (Ubatuber) in New Orleans. Inside, a handmade wooden curio box's shadowbox lid read, "A tiny gift, picked by tiny hands, for a tiny world."

In its belly, a wee pile of half-inch long little cones that looked just like miniature pine cones, perfect scale for use in the Writing Mouse's house too.

There are a few children now who will have known about Halfland their whole lives. It freaks me out when I realize/think of it. I don't think of it as a children's film exactly, parts of it will be chilling, confusing, distorted, there will be bare half-bodies, etc. I'm making it to express some sort of nearly unconscious idea about folktales and other lands where all creation strives toward greater connected experience. Its premise can go as deep as one would wish it.

But on another level, little things are just plain cute!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Halfland is Once Again Whole

It took all the King's Horses and all of his Men to get Halfland whole once again, my friends, but it is.

I'm back from the netherworld of illness and back at exciting work on the project, more thrilled than ever.

More photos of how the tree was cut apart for transport and how it was reassembled by a Halfland Hero. And the scoop on how another Halfland Hero came just before I got sick and build two set stages to fit the space. And how yet another completely new Halfland Hero has just shown up from the ethers to help and learn.

I am very clear now that everything is better when there is another person with you.

More soon...

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Going Viral

A lot has happened. Not much has happened. The cold winter, the too large a move, a cold, all conspired to lay me out lower than even I could have ever imagined. By the time we were in the new place, I could not, no matter how much my life depended on it, climb a flight of stairs.

Then came the flu and fever for two weeks, rough Photo above taken during that after I'd just taken scissors to all my hair. Then came the severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics I was hoping would help resolve the flu. Photo below taken of the all over painful hives, the swollen joints all over, and my lips still swollen even after a couple hours after being treated with an antihistamine injection.
Then I was told I'd formed pneumonia in my lungs and that I would have to have more antibiotics. My legs became very weird feeling I could barely walk so I asked to be admitted to a hospital so they could supervise the new drugs and be there if things got worse. It was very stressful not knowing if I should get to the ER 40 minutes away at any hour of the day or night, not knowing if the next reaction would be more serious.

I checked in, Paul was away, a friend, Mandy, kindly came and stayed with me there and at home over 4 nights. An unbelievable comfort. The new medicine they tried to give me through an IV was stopped at once when my arm started mapping out in red as it entered my veins. More waiting. Then another drug tried by mouth was tolerable but I was on pins and needles stressing over what could happen next. Finally one doctor said that the stress was worse than the pneumonia at that point. And that if I stayed overnight and if the lungs were heading in the right direction in the morning I could go home and overcome the pneumonia without taking anything further. Yes, it would take perhaps a month, but it could be done. I jumped at that idea with both feet.

And here I've been since. Watching many many dvd's on the couch, living on soup, salad, and avocados, doing my best to keep hydrated a constant focus. Raw coconut water each morning is probably why I'm still here.

The shortness of breath is improved. My energy is improved. My leg weirdness and later extreme pain there has improved. I am working hard at NOT WORKING SO HARD.

I should not push anymore. I need to learn to not make everything else, like moving my house, more important than my body. It wasn't ever an issue I'd noticed before. Yeah, I'd get exhausted, beyond comprehension tired before. But I'd be fit by the morning. Not now. Not yet.

I don't want to test that line any more. I want to work with my health so that it always comes FIRST from now on. This is serious.

No one is more surprised than me that I am as passionate and into making Halfland as I ever have been. I hunger to have these hands make the things that are next to build. A dear friend suggested I first make a trailer, hinting at little scenes to get my feet wet with the filming. I think that is a brilliant idea. Perfect.

The set, my desk/office, the craft table, and the workshop supplies and work station are all now shoehorned into a standard bedroom in a nice apartment. Like a Chinese puzzle, I have to move boxes to get to other boxes still. However, I am taking deep breaths and making it ok to go slowly and mindful foremost of my energy levels. If tired, I do practically nothing.

I'm not kicking up my heels exactly yet, but so far things are going better than they were. For sure.

Gently floating my way back.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Where Are We?

 The soft clay sculpture for the main character, Rana reflecting on the recent relocation.

Yuji (aka moco engineer/animator Dick Kaneshiro) is here helping me build an animation stage for the Halfland sets, bless him. Photos of the insane situation he walked into and hopefully the gleaming results shortly.

Damage List:

The sky that took me two months by myself to construct is gone. Long live what I gleaned from making it and plan to make here. Far simpler, yet as layered/depth illusional.

Rana's nose smush. She'll be ok once I touch it up after I smashed it when placing back on the baker's rack used to hold the sculpts.

My inkjet printer. It survived the move fine. It didn't survive my putting it on end fully loaded with about $60 worth of fresh cartridges however. There wasn't any room to put anything and it got put on end for a while. Now I know they need to me kept flat. Seems obvious to me now. But things were crazy-ier couple weeks back.

The little iron balcony on the tiny mouse house was lost in the move, not glued on strongly enough I suspect. But the entire tiny garden with every miniscule tomato on its vine and every grain of sand seed on the split squash survived intact. Amazingly.

And I took photos of Yuji here Monday with the Lytro, put it down not in it's little box and now its AWOL.

Nothing else has been broken or lost thankfully. I plan to gut most of the 10 papier maché landscape pieces that got cut up and moved in. Just saving the scene settings on them and layering them like dirt cloths on the stage for shooting.

The other place was for Building the Sets. This place is for Filming the Animation. GOGOGO!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

We've Moved... Into a Real 1/2L!

More of the story to come... but I'm completely amazed at how Halfland-esque our new home is, even right down to the wonderful beautiful large tree we could reach out and touch.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nice Ink !

Several weeks ago I got an email from writer Robert Ito requesting an interview for a piece on Stop Motion in California he was writing for the New York Times. Here he is looking closely into a lighted tin lantern which houses Halfland's tiny insect band for the bug party scenes.

I was fervently delighted at the thought of being mentioned specifically in the New York Times because it was the New York Times' Sunday Magazine that first introduced me to the phenomenal work of Julie Taymor that changed my life so completely. That exposure and the opportunity to work on three of her opera productions in the early Nineties, started a cascade of events that ultimately brought me to Halfland.

Robert could not have been more appreciative and lovely during his four and half hour visit. Nor could he have guessed that his email prompted round-the-clock scrubbing of every inch of the place to make me feel ready for such prime time honor. By the time he got here, I was fully zonked. I was glad I could say what I think I wanted, or actually, glad to be able to speak at all.

I love the article that Robert wrote. Not just because it amazingly gave Halfland its first mainstream public recognition, but because of the articulate clarity that artist John Frame gave to the soul of the piece, which was how personal works of art are distinct from larger stop motion films.

Robert's article gave a brief moment in the spotlight to this extraordinary clan of stop motion filmmakers mentioned who love nothing more than to push puppets one frame at a time to tell their original tales.

My husband sent the article link to everyone he's ever met. It was like he was passing out cigars after a baby is born. Friends who have no interest at all in Stop Motion forever more take what I'm making here seriously, as if being mentioned in such a prestigious publication means that what I'm doing is "officially" important. The article mention validated what I make to them. People at ballet applauded when my teacher congratulated me on the mention. (But then again they applaud everything over there.)

It is nice to no longer have to defend what I'm doing so much, if you know what I mean. I'm not just the crazy nut case toiling away making little things for no reason in some people's minds. But here's possibly the surprisingly BEST two things that have come from the gift of Robert's noticing Halfland so far...

While I greatly appreciate sincere well wishes that have come this direction from this opportunity, (and understand the silence about it from some friends) at the core, it hasn't changed what I'm doing or why. That to me is a gold nugget of knowledge to have. I've proven to myself that I'm not after public recognition by having a taste of it and not feeling swayed. I'm just happily doing what I'm doing. And I hope to continue to, despite setbacks and challenges. (Like moving!--more coming in other posts.)

And secondly, among the incredible artists whom I greatly admire who took the time to write their well wishes and make a connection, one popped up in that same inbox yesterday named, Maggie Rudy. Her work, MOUSELAND (can you imagine how similar our world's names are?!) thrills me with joy and delight! I'm packing madly and haven't had a moment to read and look and buy everything she makes--yet but I was gobsmacked at her unusually artful levels of detail and the charm of her mouse characters. We've decided via email that we are some sort of Art Sisters!

And Lisa Wood, the astonishing talent, making spectacular detailed diorama featuring real bugs living fully realized lives we would all recognize, has given me the finest award possible. After connecting due to the article, she now calls me friend.

I wonder exactly how big this cloth we are cut out of is?! That's the beneficial thing, without the article, I would never have known these women!

My thanks once again to Robert Ito for thinking enough of Halfland to take notice and for being so generous in his gift.

PS: I'm trying to persuade him to have his little son make a fish for the underwater scene covered in...
what else but the NYTimes article newsprint! I'd love to see such a magnificent fish swimming with the others in the Halfland sea.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Golden Sands

For the last sequence in the film, a desert setting will have a feeling of a humble sacred temple.

The bed sheet coated with three layers of real sand has now been hand tinted a vivid orange yellow. The color was at first custom mixed from three yellows and golds by Jacquard's natural fabric dye. But the sand and matte medium coating wasn't able to absorb the color as I'd hoped, so I mixed the color I wanted from Nova Color's insanely wonderful Indian Yellow #106 diluted with water to soak in. I also dunk-dyed huge amounts of paper from the clothing factory in the same dye bath to use as far away distant hill shapes when dry. Mid-range dunes will be simple curves from tinted 1/8" foam shaped with more paper underneath them to shape.

The entire desert will glint with gold particles from leaf and superfine gold dust applied in the sun.

Sculpture on the Serpent puppet continues....

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Another feature of the porch set Complete. Done. Finished. A natural wisteria vine that has grown itself as a chair for Rana! This is where she will sit and weave macro close up patterns of butterfly wings on a tapestry style loom with elaborate spider webs nearby in the sun.

I pried apart a store bought twig chair and cut it down to scale by half (ha) (upper left) and then built it back up adding more slats and vine curves. Once the hybrid plant was composed of various materials, the entire structure of it was unified by painting a multi-layer faux wooden patina all over, lower left.

How made: The leaves were made by cutting out pointed oval shapes in a few shades of green crepe paper and twisting them into a row of graduated leaf-pairs. MAJOR TIP/MATERIAL ALERT! brown paper covered floral wire $9 a spool at floral supply stores like Moskatels. (Closest stuff I've seen online.)

It is a natural brown paper wrapped wire that has a nice shape and hold and looks like vine already. I developed a quick system of making wisteria like leaf stems (upper left) that could in turn get twisted onto the old dried tree I was using as the vine base. I wired this onto the halfchair and added reinforced roots to the clump at the bottom.

Once I liked the construction, I slathered on a slurry of Flexall cement mixed with a little water to thin, with a brush (upper right.) Painting it on, letting it dry, and then washing with acrylic layers in brown and taupe. Hitting the whole thing with my secret Walnut Ink to darken and age the crevices when all dry and a top highlight wash of pale taupe. Finished results seen top photos, right.

I wove the vine through the porch roof slats letting a little flower, clusters of hand-painted white silk, made in the same method as the leaves, peer through here and there. I could have kept going and made more of a profusion of greenery and flowers on the wisteria, but somehow it felt right to restrain that to a late season amount rather than having it compete visually with the leaves on the Answer Tree.

It's just a quiet, restful spot to sit and weave. Thanks for reading!


Rana's sculpt auditioning the types of straight-off-the-sheep/goat wool that will become the finished puppet's hair! The dark wool on top is my order of Drenthe Heath washed fleece, the bottom is the Gotland. The African photo with mud coated braids is a goat horn idea I'm considering for part of Rana's hair style.
"How much grey would you like in Rana's hair?" The Slovakian living in Scotland "Shepherdess" asked. It was like having an entire flock of Highland sheep standing by to grow Halfland's main character's hair to order!
A very cool thing happened recently to Halfland. I follow the blog of a super nice and impressively talented experimental fiber artist, named Monika Lamackova, where she displays step-by-steps for some of her creations/materials/process, etc. (Some deliciousness of which she often sells on her Soft Fibre Etsy.)

One day she posted some Gotland sheep fibre for sale that had such wonderful natural curls and mixture of white with dark that I lusted for it to use as the goat woman Rana's hair. And I could afford it I recall it was like $6. When I explained in an email its purpose here she asked me what my wish was for the mix of shade! I got the feeling I could have requested any color of hair and pictured a flock of animals with a wide range of hues standing on a hill waiting for Monika to come along with a set of sharp shears to clip off a variety of shades to put in my package!

How exotic to receive these packages from generous Monika from such a faraway beautiful land. Over the months I've also bought a few ounces of Wensleydale washed fleece and Scottis Blackface (white) and Hebredean (black) wool for other characters as well as a few actual Woad Seeds because my natural dye loving soul needed them. (She has always included a wee fibre giftie in the pack as well to my absolute delight.)

Can you believe the people we all get to meet/connect with because of the Web?! I can't really get over it.

Cloud Tech

A few sample dimensional cloud test shots.

In the Halfland sky there are a couple of monofiliant lines to run dimensional clouds in front of the painted versions. They can be moved along like clothes on an old fashioned clothesline via pulley. The clouds can be lit from the front or sides or behind with white or colored lights for changing time of day or type of weather. NICE!
They are made with loosely arranged polyester fiberfill encased in a skin of white tulle (sheer netting fabric) and stitched closed. They can run along the line being pushed by hand with a drinking straw embedded inside and threaded on. (An idea suggested by a workman hired to help on the set for a day several months back) Or they can be glued firmly onto a double pulley line and pulled across the sky.

On the right, a cloud is photographed behind the plastic sky scrim. I like the realistic shading this technique gives the cloud shapes and how dreamy the sheeting makes things seem.

Sunrise Sunset

Had the idea to add shifting color to the Halfland sky via additional sheer color scrims made of tulle, fabric netting that is inexpensive and comes in a large selection of colors.

The four colors of raw tulle yardage in sunset/sunrise colors from Mood Fabric LA was stitched onto four vertical monofiliament lines attached to the set ceiling and floor and tied tightly. Constance helped me install the lines several weeks/months back and David started off the hanging of the colors when he was last here with Sherie. I finished the other side of the rainbow (OH!-now there's another idea for this technique! Rainbows!) back stage yesterday (Paul took the picture) and took a few test shots today.

Each color can be intensified by bunching up on its own independent set of lines or spread open like a veil for a soft mist effect. In the center bottom row you see a how the back stage arrangement on the upper right photographs in front of the sky scrim with a sample cloud in place.

The colors can overlap for interesting blending and these positions can be kept in place via a clump of quake putty on each corner bitten by a metal clip to stay up on the lines. It's a little like painting with fabric. It's a poetic feeling.

Colored gel side lighting should add a lot to the effect as well.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Hey, It's Only a Paper Moon

 The Supermoon shot outside my window tonight, on left, The edge of Halfland's golden disk, in the center, and how it looks when lit in the sky on set, on right.

In honor of tonight's Supermoon, I thought I'd reveal Halfland's moon. It's a simple round metallic cardboard circle that had a failed image transfer of the actual moon face applied. The moon surface didn't transfer, just an irregular dried residue of its underlying paper with original golden shine only slightly visible under the paper.

When this paper disk is attached to the inside sky scrim layer, the one nearest the set, and a light is shone directly at it, the effect is fine by me! It's a good example of something not working as planned, but resulting perhaps better than could have tried to achieve. And another example of why I find moving forward better than going back to correct. "Use the mistakes" is a motto around here.

I can attach the moon in the sky where I'd like it for a shot, hit it with different color pin spots for different feels. The only issue is the because the sky is "raked", slanted quite a bit, the roundness of the moon distorts a bit. I could probably compensate for that in the shape, but that's too hard. I say the moon in Halfland tweaks out.

Next post: I can show how the sky will get it's color for dawns and sunsets....

Friday, May 04, 2012

Rosy Cozy

An ancient catch up, here's a shot I finally like of the finished rose wallpaper in the cottage bedroom.

The real angle of the two wall panels don't join so seamlessly, and the distressing is primarily made in the layers on the image, but it does show how nicely the teacup roses grow from the outside onto the faded wallpaper and then fade into it themselves. There are some rose images on the wall, more organically placed and brightly colored, as a stage between growing and paper design.

This is where Rana will crawl into bed to be snuggled by the Caterpillow in the gathering darkness, listening to the rain and insect sounds.

In the morning, small beetles will be knitting on the nightstand. (Didn't know that happened in the morning until I just typed it!)

I have recently been dividing all the action/vignettes in the film into four "Akts";


And, through these four changes of lighting, the four seasons will also be shifting in a subtle way as well.

Part of what I'm expressing with Halfland is a game of perception concerning size and time. I keep altering those aspects throughout so that the viewer will be forced to assume the place has a certain reality.

If I make what is built relatively large appear to be impossibly small through tilt-shift effects at certain moments, I feel the audience's heart will naturally believe what is displayed overall is real because the level of detail denotes a certain reality to be something so "small".

Then what was also built at a very small physical scale is shown in relation to those larger elements, the ride of scale perceptions should get very fun indeed. Part of the effect I'm hoping for.

The shifting of time should occur in the same way. Too quickly to be our familiar experience, yet challenging our own perception of how it passes.

Each film series takes place during a Halfland Day.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Real Mouse in Halfland!

A rare moment of stillness, our FeLINE Producer in a standoff with a real life mouse* in the tracks of the cardboard proscenium trees on set.

The other night I got up to see what the scuffling my cat was making was all about. It was the cutest tiny mouse in all of Halfland (awwwwww) being toyed with. It was plopped into my husband's shoe, it was bopped on the head and slapped around the flat, including under the entire set.

In the year's best Twitter comment, friend in Portland, Gretchin Lair, answered my urgent tweet asking what I should do about a real mouse being in Halfland,

"Grant it amnesty if it agrees to play the Writing Mouse?"

LOLlolol ha!--Good one, gl!

*Current condition of the sweet mouse can be assumed to be alright as it gave the never-saw-a-mouse-before cat the slip, took it on the lamb, cheesed it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Not Far from the Tree

 I make every guest plant springs of crepe paper grass before they sign the Guest Artist board nowadays. HEE heh heh.

Sunday saw two new lovely people visit for their first time, Lesley, from New Mexico, in town conducting research for her latest book at local university libraries, and her grown ass son, Chris, the crazily nice hip science dude with the golden heart who lives nearby with his pretty wife. (no, seriously, they are MIT grads.)

I didn't expect them to be so incredibly enthusiastic about what they saw in Halfland. I mean, it's just a handmade folk forest, but they both went wild! They loved all that they saw and I was especially chuffed that Chris, a researcher who's already contributed to his field with breakthrough ecology studies of tree structures, expressed his affection for the Answer Tree. He seemed genuinely taken with it which I take to be a fully expert endorsement!

Lesley's other charming nestling is a daughter who I've heard lives for puppets, folktales, stop motion, animation, filmmaking, directing, goats (I'm not making this up, am I?), weaving, wool, yarns, mermaids, bugs, etc. Basically everything I showed them here they countered with, "ugh, Mari would LOVE this!" Perhaps, one day I'll meet this sister....

It was so enjoyable and valuable having Lesley and Chris over. The way they both took in what I was showing and telling made me make connections I hadn't before. And I realized, as I could have gone on, pulling more and more out to share with them, that there is now far more complete done finished than I knew.

Please stay tuned....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Here Comes Urhu

A few recently added reference images for making the Urhu, Serpent Sage Musician character for the end of the film series. He is a Magi of sorts, he is half mature male, half snake/serpent. The snake-like features on the women in the upper left photos will influence the character's expression. The dragon's scales, looking like very metallic gold "tiles" on an tarnished iron ground inspire me to the character's lower half texture. Except I'm leaning towards using a bright green metal feel with the gold. I think it'll look fresh and interesting against the orange sand.

Since Sherie from the Sea has helped me complete the entire last set in the production. The sand has now been stained golden orange, the tent is complete done finished, inside and out, including all the furnishings and props, the palm tree, the instruments, the mats he sits on, the floral prayer flags, et al.

With this done, we begin to create the Urhu puppet in earnest.
The last time Sherie came over (again with her beau David!), she began taping the understructure for the puppet's sculpture. She did a good job shaping his head to a proportion that suits both halves of him.

I haven't decided yet whether to make him as the other main characters, with clay/mold/cast, or to make him as a "build-up" puppet. A build-up would save me the effort of creating the molds and casting. But it would mean I'll have to jump forward and make his animation armature right now.

And yet he comes.

Catching You Up: On the Head of a Pin

I want to start posting some of the action that's been happening in Halfland. So much has been built now, but I had been waiting to post until the big items were all done to show the big payoff, with pictures of the start, the process shots, and then the result. But because it takes so long to complete things all the way, posts get rare.

Here's a quickie just to share things as the big things roll along toward getting finished.
The Bug Party set is complete done finished, both the daytime and nighttime versions. All the little plaid covered mushrooms are set as the insect cafe in the same spot that the party will happen when it gets dark. Three of these mushrooms have the smallest-scale-in-Halfland doors, fitted with heads of pin doorknobs. One even has a twig mullion window that glows invitingly to those passing by.
Please stay tuned for more to come...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sneaking Up On It

Been peeping around the set with my Lytro. Looking for good square compositions and discovering what amount of light is needed to get clarity on multiple planes within them.
This one worked fabulously! Giving several planes of focus, click around on it to see!: porch railing outside cottage, chairitable just inside window, floral arrangement and/or cheese & peas on table, easy chair back in foreground, pin cushion resting on the arm of the chair.
These are "flattie" (non-Lytro) samples of better compositions that I'll use as guides later to capture with better lighting set up to get better interactive shifts in Lytro.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Opening Night

Meet the Bugs in the Band.
Made a lighted display box to display the Buggy Band mates with their instruments.

A one note at a time xylophone playing worm wearing a pink tutu.
A lumpy drum-banging spider with a bright tipped mohawk wailing on his tomato kit.
The tiny guitar playing black beetle with long antenna.
The no lady Ladybug on her fiddle head cello, keeping the beat tapping her feet on the log.
The fuzzy caterpillar blowing the twig horn, puffing out his cheeks.

This crew will play during the nighttime bug party
while the moths and caterpillars tango under the lights.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Light Field rEvolution

Here begins the story of Lytro and the Halfland Storybook.
This is (NOT a Lytro shot of) me permagrinning through all my first Lytro experiments,
like shooting a fully decked out super festive Halfland bug party.
Yes, that square tube is the Revolution.

When I started creating this 20-year stop-motion animation project it was 1993. You may recall that there was no consumer level digital photography, no public use of internet, no affordable onion skinning software apps. No real ability for an individual to direct their own movie within their own means at that time. Hard to imagine that reality existed now as we've all been living in an embarrassingly rich haven of powerful tools of artistry and global connection since that year.

It seemed as though Halfland, my personal folktale animation, was being made in the precise moment in time when it could in fact be made. Not a moment sooner. It's as though the technology emerged and matured as I slavishly built each insect and blade of grass for its private, magical world.

Photoshop was the first atomic bomb of empowerment I recognized as a game changer for me personally. I bought-in at v2.0 and began making digital collages that awoke my capacity to make visuals. With Photoshop, I could express what I saw inwardly, exactly the way I saw it, in a way I knew I never could through traditional fine art methods.

Years later, when we all began to use digital cameras and upload them online, to blog, to connect through forums, to have experts mentor us in our areas of interest, it became crystal clear that Halfland could be made for next-to-no-money, distributed online worldwide for free, and allow those who might enjoy seeing such a film to watch it, engage with it, and to become part of it somehow. Halfland has become my art, my poem, my passion. It makes me laugh at certain things in it. I could weep over how much I want to see the puppets in it move. The technology and what I wanted to make was a match made in heaven.

This project, this type of project, at this specific point in creative empowerment. It is happening. This post announces the latest exciting development that has once again come forward at the right moment, the Lytro Light Field camera...

Deep inside the den of 1/2L.'s Writing Mouse under the living Answer Tree, his cupboard is stuffed with tiny bottles of ink and birch bark paper scrolls with gilded edges for his journals. (The acorn tea set was made for 1/2L by Sharon Ferg.) LYTRO LIVING PHOTO: CLICK ON THE CLOSEST EDGE OF THE GREEN JOURNAL THEN ON THE LITTLE WHITE BOTTLE ON THE CUPBOARD SHELF. THIS SHIFT IS SLIGHT, FOR A BIGGER EFFECT, CLICK ON THE ROOT SLASHING ACROSS THE RIGHT HAND CORNER AND THEN BACK TO ANOTHER ITEM.

For the last 8 years, while I've been actually building the film's sets, I was running into the real technical dilemma of how on earth I would practically photograph/capture the detail and the depth of what was being built. The Writing Mouse's room, for example, was a square foot box loaded with the most minute props and super rich texture that in order to photograph it with any depth of field effect (ie; vital atmosphere) much of its charm would be lost. The moment I would focus on the brass key the size of a fingernail, the cupboard behind the desk with all its birch bark gilded-edge scrolls and acorn teapot would be a blur. This was becoming true for every element on every set in the series. Then I heard a rumor about the Lytro camera coming out in early 2012.

It did come out, bless the makers, and I have one right next to me now. It's a miracle to me. A thrill. Lytro is something new in photography in the same vein as photography's invention itself. One of the more stunning effects it gives is that we can interact with its images and focus in them anywhere, in real time, while we are looking back at the image online or on a tablet, etc. (There is much to read/watch/see from CEO-Founder, Ren Ng, Director of Photography, Eric Cheng, and the first Lytro users about it of greater depth--ha online so I'll only focus--HA here on how I see its implementation working specifically for this project.)

In short, Lytro is a Light Field Camera, that's the innovation. Other previous cameras capture light hitting a subject from a single direction essentially whereas Light Field camera captures all light in every direction. It's not registering in pixels alone, but rather each capture records 11 million rays of light on its array of insect eye-like censors (1 pixel + 1 direction = 1 ray; 1 million rays = 1 megaray; each image contains = 11 megarays). These make up what Lytro calls the Living Pictures.

It's not so much about having high pixel resolution (as of yet) but rather about using the low res web for sharing them and about what this light field capture data can give us after the image has been snapped.

More 1/2L. bug party action where the seed pod beetle tries to help himself to a slice of cake, another fly sips tea through a striped straw the size of pencil lead, and in the lower left a little thief grabs the rest of the cake for himself. LYTRO LIVING PHOTO: CLICK ON THE VARIOUS BUGS YOU CAN SPOT TO BRING THEM INTO GREATER VIEW. BIGGEST SHIFT IS FROM LOWER LEFT CORNER THIEF TO ANY OTHER PLANE. THERE ARE ABOUT 6 BUGS IN THIS TEST IMAGE.

Part of what I'm exploring with Lytro is having an enhanced Halfland storybook for tablet devices that allows the reader of the book to engage with the 3D, hand-built, puppetry illustrations as the reader explores the story.

Again, an uncanny technological realization emerging at the moment the project can benefit from it.

Currently, I'm planning to shoot the storybook with the Lytro as the frame-by-frame animation images are being made with its standard FZ50 camera. So, for each set up, my no-holds-barred animated version of the story is taken as a separate narrative is also shot with the Lytro for an enhanced illustrated book for children.

I'm beginning to experiment with the current sets and puppets to get a feel for what the Lytro can and can't do. How to set the plane of focus for the greatest shift in my micro puppets and sets for the best effect possible. And learn how to compose pleasingly in a square format. It's an intoxicating process of discovery.

The beetle in 1/2L.'s Bug Band, this gruesome fellow strums a pretty little guitar the size of a baby's finger. LYTRO LIVING PHOTO: Focus on the guitar belly to see the twists in its sewing thread strings. The layers of roots shift perfectly in the upper left!

I'm just learning. Excuse me while I try to post these and other early test shots up at the Lytro site for you to try out. Does the focus shift when you click over various planes? Does the effect work on the blog as well? Let me know! IT DO! BY GEORGE.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Porch Report

Supreme architect and friend, M.Charles was fantastic a few weeks back when he came to visit and help design & build the cottage porch here in Halfland. You helped me so much that day, Charles. I can't thank you enough. THANK YOU!

He dove in and did a lot of problem solving to work out the perfect porch for this set using nothing but materials on hand. His wonderful sketches are above. He wouldn't leave until he got the construction well underway.
 Cirelle came a few Saturdays back and talked me through how I could construct the rest. That helped a lot too. Last night I made good progress in actually installing the portico lattice roof of her suggestion from redwood lathing strips, after actually installing the handmade twig and spindle railings that she had launched.
It's still in progress as you see it above, yet surprisingly rugged and sturdy, held to the cottage via just two screws.  What happens next is the wisteria chair gets finished and planted off the back of the decking and its vines woven in between the roof's trellis slats. But that's after the entire porch structure gets its color/tone evened out with diluted acrylic paints.

Cirelle will have to get the window box replanted with it's tiny fleurs. And the water bucket pulley system devised for over the rain barrel. Rana's loom will have to be built and set on this new room/porch and her bags of wool set around it. I'll have to use wood epoxy to secure the little acorn nut post caps to complete the scene.

The scenes planned for the porch set (on the cottage set) is Rana seen weaving a macro texture of a butterfly wing in wool on her rustic loom with a spider nearby threading gems onto its web in the doorway.
Construction deets: I have sorted all my dried and seasoned branches and twigs in the store room, so it was a simple matter to locate fairly uniform diameter twigs to cut down for the porch's railing balusters and posts. With Charles' advice in my ear, I constructed the railings by careful cutting and gluing. I used a scrap of some kind of wooden channel that I was able to shove the uprights into for stability. I used ample wood glue and let the four lengths dry flat with heavy tools as weights.

After they were solid, I filled in any gaps and blended the various shapes into the form with my trusty pre-mixed flexible cement. The railing lengths were joined by a time consuming process of drilling small holes into each newel post and length in order to embed pieces of wire between each join. Then the glue, then the cement, and finally the wood epoxy. The tall porch posts were custom fitted with cement collars so they can be removed from their drilled plug-in holes. After that was all dry I moved the porch set from the workshop to the main set for finishing and installation.

Meanwhile, I took apart a very old store bought twig chair, chopped it to pieces and reassembled it to be smaller for Halfland's main scale. I've had the chair for years and have always noticed little munchy bits heaped around the chair wherever it was. I knew something was inside having itself a feast. Sure enough, as I was disassembling it, I discovered the entire chair was filled with cleared out tunnels and holes. Somehow I don't mind. It seems right that Halfland should have living things in it.

I have been creating a wisteria vine for the porch from old dead tree trunks that I've saved and handmade fabric blossoms and crepe paper leaves. I've been wiring those elements onto the chair, trying to make them seem half of the other. I want her porch chair to look nearly grown there.
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