Saturday, September 13, 2014

Constance Has Passed

Long time readers of the blog will remember one of Halfland's lovely volunteers Constance. She came over regularly for many months, largely building the most difficult forest sets of the project.

She labored hard with me to make the wonderful bamboo grove set for the mothman, erecting the large white cardboard 2D foreground forest from the trees drawn by Peggy, and helped me get the birch tree forest to stand, among other things. She was focused, hardworking, artistic, refined, sophisticated. A New Yorker, in other words, having transplanted herself to California about 15 years ago.

Constance always had a vision of women helping each other with large creative projects as a means to connect and share strengths, like old fashioned quilting bees. I think that's what brought her over to Halfland a lot, that there was a certain momentum of gathering taking place at the loft every Friday where she could gather in a creative circle and work happily towards something together.

But she came more than that, at least twice a week for a time. She came for the hard stuff. She came to do the bullwerk of difficult physical tasks. We had the satisfaction together of completing these and admiring how they looked. She helped make the moon. She made an exquisite butterfly, a work of art, one of the few things made by someone else I'm excited to feature in the film. She roughed in the mouse's house interior, pushing down that inertia for me so I could make it. Thank you for all your help, Constance.

After my move to this smaller place, during my own long walk back to health, Constance would check in on how things were going. I did the same around Easter. She said that she'd been dealing with some inexplicable weakness and permitted me to bring over some food she felt might be good.

Paul and I stopped by her home with the goods and were stunned by her appearance. She was skeletal. All we could say after not having seen her for months was, "What's going on??!?" She didn't know. Her husband rushed to to the ER later that very night in distress, her dam of pain finally burst. And so began weeks of the waning of her physical life, that culminated last month.

There was tremendous support of all kinds for she and Richard from that day on. With much organizing help by her friend Paula, friends, ministers, and relatives were able to keep a near constant watch over Constance. We all took our coordinated turn taking her for appointments, treatments, and later, when it seemed best, just to come and sit waiting for her passing.

In a way it was a shocking horror show of an experience. I could not get my head around how a human body could survive such profound loss of all its lovely flesh. How could she walk and speak when tumors were invading places within her that must have confused all internal function. How difficult for her mate to watch and to endure such an ordeal. And yet, he did much more than survive it. He triumphed over it all with love, rising to her every need with strength and purpose. He would give her everything he could until this path was fully walked.

There was Constance. Still refined, and funny, and philosophical about it all. Needing Richard. For herself she wished for a 'clean get away', to be clear and complete inside herself and with everyone she'd be leaving behind. She took the High Road out from my point of view, demonstrating the noblest of perspectives during these declining months.

On my last visit she would forget to take a breath every so often. I'd remind her and she'd come alive with a gasp and expressively whisper, "Thank you!" Even then, some lucid aspect of her consciousness would ask out loud, "How do I get out of this?" Without obvious alternative, only a suggestion to follow the Light sounded hopeful.

If there is, as I believe, some sort of continuation after this physical experience, then I'm sure Constance's Soul is having fun somewhere, making silly puns with wordplay, and creating wondrous things. Maybe, if she wants to, building forests of the lasting kind.

Friday, August 29, 2014

I Thought I Made 1/2L Up

I have no idea whether this is really real, whatever that is, or Photoshopped or what but the idea is utterly Halflandian and striking. Tumblr The Lifting of the Veil reports that roots of trees in North Carolina have taken shape as emerging human forms. Nature beats me to it everytime.

Anthropomorphic Tree
Anthropomorphism which is the recognition of human-like characteristics or form in animals, plants or non-living things. This tree, which can be found in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, has roots which have taken a human-like form.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Meet Tico the Writing Mouse

I'm delighted to present to you... at long last.... TICO The Writing Mouse (larger scale puppet)! Here he is with me and his smaller scale double. I love how he looks running amok in my canned goods and hiding out in a teacup. His little version has had his latex paws and tail repaired with Omnigel. And now has a green neckerchief like the big guy. They wear different nut caps but both look great.
The small scale puppet for Writing Mouse (seen upper right in upper left square) was made 20 years ago. The larger scale version was needed for the Mouse House interior sequences. You can see the way I attempted to match him in crudeness and lack of movement while giving him more articulation in his expression. Build up style on dead simple Almaloy armature. Used tacky glue to fill out his shape with polyfiberfill, held until dry by a length of fine wire. His ears are a doubled piece of copper foil so they'll be readily positionable. Snout and bottom jaw wired to move and 3-toes and fingers built up with Omnigel.
Thin textured non-stretch fabric was sewn on for skin and fur, later painted to match. Back of ears flocked in custom grey. Tail had to be snipped off and re-attached further toward the end of his spine. D'uh. You can see how it was straight through him at first (first photo) and to where it was moved (upper right above). Beads for eyes and teefus. Had to carefully add longer hairs of white by cutting clumps from a longer length faux fur and sprinkling the fibers onto a lightly coated matte medium surface. When he was all done he checked out his house (smoking his pipe seen through the hole lower left) And reading the news atop a match box.
His glasses were made so easily (compared to the smaller pair) from a gauge I had on hand that I felt was correct. I used micro thin brass wire to secure the frames. I used purple sewing thread to wrap the arms and the bridge, just like the genuine antique frames I have embedded in his set. For the small pair years ago, I used liquid starch that became the lenses when dry. This time I used a non-toxic urethane glue (seen lower left above dried in the new frames and as a dried disk between my fingers). Lower right Tico models his favorite natural pod cap. His whiskers were made from stiffened faux fur strands.
He looks so sweet reading in his chair. And out back in the macro set, and climbing dandelion stems, or even checking out a our-world pencil. (A Ticonderoga #2, and how he got his name.)

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Scenes From A Bug Party

Clean Up Crew

Poor little buggy is the lone staff at the bug party. He alone will have to clean up after everyone else's good time. Something so sad and forlorn about this little fellow.
One of the quickie Beady Bugs looked so meek and humble, he kind of dictated that he should be the only one working while everyone else was having a party. I had a blast painting his little beetle back with stripes and ugly nub bumps. I gave him a sliced wood tray stacked high with dirty dishes and have him using all his arms to wipe up messes. One of the cups is rigged to swing from his antennae.


It all started with this post on Cute Overload (a source of MANY real life ideas stolen to use in Halfland). The clip shows a Rhodinia fugax caterpillar being gently touched on the tush and the squeaks it makes in defense.

The Halfland version wears a party hat and has a tooting party favor in its mouth. His bottom is getting pressed by a delicate long-limbed four-legged colorful spider hiding under a rock crevice.

Every time tootles gets tickled he lets out a party horn blast. (preview the sound here). I knew the pinch-er had to be lightweight enough so that the gag wouldn't cause any concern of harm for the viewers. A stronger bug pinching him might make people feel as though the caterpillar was being eaten or injured. It's still creepy, I think because the spider's legs are so long, even with just four legs instead of eight. But I tried to make it less threatening using cheerful stripes and bright colors.
Using seed pods, beads and aluminium alloy wire, the most non-threatening spider I could make. She even has a wee flower behind her ear.  She's finished with custom-mixed flocking powders for a soft velvety texture.

The pillar's tush squeeze is made animate-able with a blob of Fun Tack under his green rubber glove skin. It can depress and return over and over without drying out. His party horn ticklers are wired to coil and unfurl with each toot.

Beady Bugs

One of the fast-to-make bead bugs turned itself into an ant so I went with it. Now it's eating cake at the party.
I forget how it started, but I remember I realized I needed to make lot of bugs... oh yeah! it was the idea of making footlight fireflies for the bug party stage that got me going. I knew I wanted five identical little critters, with light up bums, and I didn't want to labor over them. Fast and easy was the notion. BEADS! bingo. I didn't drill them, although that could be done, with a fine hand drill if more care/time were wanted.

I used 32 gauge steel wire from Kit Kraft (my favorite wire), using the holes already there, kept layering and assembling shapes, seeing what might happen. It was so fun. All different bugs came into being really quickly. None of them were useful for the footlights but they ALL got used as guests at the party (see upcoming party scene photos to see if you want to try to spot where).

The point of this post is to tell you that this bead method worked so well it gave me the pathway to make all the creatures listed on the project trays seen at lower right! Hooray for beads!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Band Stand

The full Bug Party set and puppets are ALL DONE! and fully dressed on the fully completed cottage foreground set. It looks pretty spectacular, even to me. It's ready to shoot. More photos of scenes going up on here next. W00t!

 Bug Band fully installed on their sliced wooden stage, including five new light-up bug footlights; four skinny, one fat-bummed as I only had four matching beads. Comedy will ensue as he tries to fit in to the halved-nut lampbox.

Woven Water

Carefully painted with various brands and types of metallic blue. The stretch in the fabric allowed me the satisfaction of following the edges of the pond set very securely. You'll see why that's rather important below. Note too my small tribute to Dali. Upper right shows what lights look like underneath when dark above.

I couldn't get the previous plastic pond water to look unlike plastic. Which bothered me so I took the time (heh) to remake the pond surface water out of a hand-dyed woven wool knit fabric scrap instead. All new.

Here it is all finished with the pupp re-installed, along with Time's new winder at his side, painted to look like the brass of the other clockworks, and one of his stunt tongues. Both additions will animate.

The water around the frog was gathered and glued around his shape as this area will be seen for only a frame or two and blurred at that. I prefer the fabric texture for 1/2L. and hope to somehow make the movement effect work well enough. Blurry and grainy is better for most of the film. "Make the details, then obscure the details" is my formula for storybook fantasy realism.
PS: [sigh] The youngest kitten here does NOT understand how to be careful with 1/2L like the older others seem to. This one is naughty and knows perfectly well that she was not allowed on the new pond water in case she'd damage it. Fortunately it proved it could withstand her special brand of attitude.

Friday, May 09, 2014


A black caterpillar tries to grab the whole leaf tray full of pollen-frosted cupcakes from the grasshopper waiter at the bug party.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

From a Letter to a Former Husband

My second husband is a former teacher of English Composition (hope he didn't want to correct my grammar too much), a voracious reader, and one of the courageous men working hard to recover from the aftermath of a stroke several years ago.

He asked me the other day to summarize Halfland for him so that he could describe it properly in the pages on me in his memoir/novel. It was due to him that Halfland began. He graciously (after my sobbing hysterically) took me to New York with him when he moved there to achieve his Doctorate in English Education. The experience of living in New York utterly transformed every aspect of my life and resulted in both directions of daily activity I follow, graphic design using computers and personal art of this sort. He gave me many books to read that shaped my life and was completely encouraging when I began to work (and lug around) the makings of the film.

Here's part of what I wrote him as directly and simply as I could put it...

... I promised to tell you the general story of Halfland. In a nutshell, it's an original folktale about a world that dwells between the worlds, the ones we know, and the ones we don't. It's a world where everything is half of something else. Where everything in it is alive and becoming more aware, to varying degrees.
It centers around a quiet cottage in a tree where a wise old goat woman and her friends live. One of her friends is a black mermaid who comes to visit. Another is a crow woman in crisis who reaches her cottage just in time to collapse. The goat woman and the mermaid set out with the unconscious crow woman carried on a sled, across the desert to the the mystical musician who is half serpent. He sits alone in the vast dunes playing instruments whose sound can heal. At the end, the sounds bring about a healing for the crow woman and she lifts above the desert sands and transcends in consciousness, leaving a trail of thoughts, blossoming like flowers, behind as she goes.

That's the story/plot/action mostly. But it's more than just that. It's also an allegory (like those you've taught so well in school) of Time and Seasons, Day Following Night, and what happens at night when no one is there to see. It imagines where butterflies come from and gives us a glimpse of who it is that weaves all the lace. It's about home and hearth. The comfort of a quiet place in nature. And whether what we think we almost see with our eyes is in fact really there in some ways.

It's what I want to do all the time. It's what I began in 1993 with you. Thanks to you, in so many ways...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Over My Shoulder

Just discovered FaceTime can record movies. Thought I'd show how crazy things are here with the full set up right behind me. Got everything decked out for the full Bug Party scene.

Storyboard and new puppet showcase coming soon...

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Halfland Trailer #1 Script

Halfland Trailer #1 Script – 4/5/2014

Voice Over Artist: MJM (Luckily for me, a friend with the deepest, richest, most full-throated tones I've ever heard, with a marvelous precise Spanish accent and her wonderful foreign enunciation of English) *Emphasis to be weighted on underscored words. [Spoken style as though an important story is being told for the first time to the world.]

[Ext, Day: looking up into handmade paper sky, camera pans downward ] [slow, peaceful]
...Let me tell you of a New Folktale…
[majestic music, chords, nature sounds; bird song, breezes] [00:03]

[Ext, Day: long shot of sky dawning over Rana's cottage and landscape] [nearly still]
...It's about a world between the worlds called, Halfland.
[majestic music, chords, nature sounds; bird song, breezes] [00:06]

[Ext, Day: camera moving slightly closer] [barely moving]
Where everything is half of something else.
[softer music, stranger chords, attention shimmer, nature sounds; bird song, breezes] [00:04]

[Fade down to brown-----transition------fade up] [00:02]

[Ext, Day: camera careens over picket fence and front garden toward Rana's cottage] [slow, like drifting]
Many creatures make their home there.
[pleasant music, nature sounds, sung abstract tones] [00:03]

[Ext, Day: camera slowly pans through Answer Tree branches] [slow, languid]
Some, among the branches of the Answer Tree.
[pleasant music, nature sounds, sung abstract tones] [00:04]

[Ext, Day: among branches, birds in hats arguing over the hand mirror: each bird in hat, flying, landed, tug-of-war over mirror, tussle, hat falling, looking down on sleeping cat below, cat doesn't move, just opens one eye when hat lands on his head.] [swift cuts]
Where birds in hats argue over vanity.
[loudly bickering birds, tussling of cardboard hat boxes, hat landing on sleeping cat with dull thud] [00:05]

[Ext, Evening, Change of light; glimpse of luna moth-winged Yanu in Answer Tree canopy carrying the moon lantern and hanging it on a high branch.] [quick cross cutting]
Where a mothman hangs the moon lantern each night.
[pleasant music, nature sounds, wind through leaves, butterfly wings flapping] [00:05]

[Fade down to brown-----transition------fade up] [00:02]

[Int, Night; Rana sits in armchair by the fire silently sewing, inset close-up of her pulling the needle] [peaceful, homey]
Hidden in her woodland cottage, Rana awaits a friend from the sea...
[wooden creaks, fire crackle, gentle sigh, thread running through cloth] [00:06]

fade down to brown------transition------fade up [00:02]

[Ext, Night; abstract darkness, shadowy figure riding a creature, neither ever actually seen] [desperate quick cross cutting]
...While another struggles to reach there in time.
[Woman breathing heavily, howling wind, baby crying, glass breaking, running horse hooves, sung disturbing tones] [00:04]

[Ext, Day, frog in motion leaping; cut to close-up of clock eye] [quick cross cutting]
Not the Time that is kept nearby...
[pond splash, clock ticking, crickets] [00:03]

[Ext, Day; desert set, close-up as sprout emerges from Tarn's black hair and grows in time lapse to blossom into flower ] [peaceful slow motion]
…But in time to have all her hopes realized.
[Eastern style music, attention shimmer, unfolding chords, sung abstract tones, ringing crystal bowl, bird wing whipping through air] [00:04]

[Fade down to brown-----transition------fade up] [00:02]

[Ext, Night, sampling of the bug party festivities] [quick cross cutting]
Come along, and discover for yourself what you already knew.
[Bug Party band music, insect noise, party clatter/chatter, relentless air horn blowing] [00:05]

[Ext, Day, medium shot of Rana smiling with a wink in front of her cottage] [slow, peaceful]
Watch what happens, in Halfland…
[pleasant music, nature sounds] [00:05]

[Vintage sepia spyglass distressed framing] [slow, flickering, becomes steady when name and tag appear.]
Fade to brown with sounds still on. Up with name plate.
[pleasant music, nature sounds] [00:03]


[Visual Shots]
[Sound Design]
[Pace/Speed of Cutting]
Total Estimated Runtime [00:66]

Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Sound Idea

You'd never know what this peaceful, sleepy little mushroom ring turns into at night...

Come along, you're invited to see what's going on after hours in Halfland.

Here's a little preview of the sound design for the Bug Party scene. It's just two low res still shots of the set in the dark with a few tracks thrown into After Effects. My very first attempt with the program. Had to start somewhere.

I've actually collected many dozens of sound files for Halfland just last month. I believe to have 97% of all audio that will be needed for every scene of the film, from the pond to the desert. They've all been gathered into scene folders, labelled, organized. Ready to drop into compositions.

This was a huge milestone for the project and brought to light several surprising realizations about actions and the nature of of what happens. It helped me visualize each moment in a more concrete way which made everything even more tantalizing for me.

You will laugh so hard when you see what's making that horn blow at the party! xoox

It's a Full House!

Started assembling the separate set pieces into their new configuration by using sawhorses, tripods,  and crates at different levels, stuffing the undersides with big crumples of thick brown paper for support. 

Since the shot above was taken, the foreground piece is set-up, the full picket fence and gate is installed and the bug party mushroom ring and cottage pathway repaired and finessed.

The set takes up the whole bedroom where I work, you walk right into the Answer Tree's tiny Writing Mouse house as soon as you walk through the door.

With the landscape in position in it's new configuration, it's nearly impassable to my desk back there. I mostly walk around through the bathroom while the full set is set up. Once the cottage interior scenes are being shot, the landscape can stack and stow to clear up space.
The picket fence (seen above midway during installation process) is now fully incorporated into the foreground set piece, painted with whitewash, and the ground around the base patched and repainted to look like ground.

The fence makes the smaller scale of the Bug Party set look even more diminutive. And you know what that means... intensely more appealing results. It's the one thing against the other that makes the illusion work. The bug party glimpsed from a distance (at first) through the fence in the same frame will enhance the magic of the scale differences.

The next post will give the idea a bit.

Just My Cup of Tea Tree

I've made many plans for flower plantings along the picket fence set piece, spent a lot of time thinking of how to make the greenery and flowers. Then I noticed a specific plant in our neighbor's yard and took a little snip to test (lower left). It looked right, right away. The right scale, the right feel. But how would they be made stable to last over time?

As it would happen, the very next day I saw the gardeners had trimmed back that very shrub (They kindly told me it was called Australian Tea Tree) and welcomed me to grab as much from the bin as I'd like. I stripped off the best looking tips, with the most pink blooms, and happily brought them back to the set.

Today I filled a ziplock bag with my trusty Nova Color matte medium, dropped in the stems one by one, smooshed around to coat, and then tapped off excess inside a cardboard box, and hung all over the studio to dry (center).

I really coated each stock heavily, some twice after each coat dried. The result so far is perfect, with all little leaves strongly attached and even the flower petals withstood the treatments (lower right) and look unaltered after two coats have dried.

The other half of the armful I clipped and crushed their stems to absorb a mixture of hot water, glycerine, and vinegar.  Ideally the solution will be drawn up into the stocks and preserve the whole branch longer term. That batch will take several weeks to fully process, so this matte medium technique, by contrast, is super fast and easy.

I used nearly the same method back in September with a batch of myrtle greenery with mixed results. They looked good at first too but the larger leaves curled and don't look lively enough for the use anymore. Might have them in a blurry background.

Crossing fingers that the Tea Tree branch tips will look like this long term. Planning to add other quick (QUICK!) paper blossoms to the greenery at the fence as well. Yellow Sweetpeas (center bottom).

Friday, January 31, 2014

Wise Old Twigman

Took found twig pieces into human limb form. Added layers of copper tape to the joint areas with masking tape to make it a puppet for slight gestures of life. Once formed, painted whole body with dark umber and iron oxide as a base for the deepest layer of wood. Left straggle pieces of root as tendons on his right thigh. Our vegetable nature glimpsed. Layers of gel medium with pumice added texture to the taped areas.
Painted top layers of wood with raw titanium matte, light gray, and camel beige until it read as twig wood. Twigman's head was made from a found tuft of grass that I'd preserved with layers of thin matte medium, leaving the fine roots as his beard. Another piece of root was added as a nose and two very tiny seed pods of some kind were added into voids made in the grass, completing an almost obvious face.

The voids in the grass were made by poking holes through and through the clump with a plastic wrapped stick, wired, and left to dry. Next day, sticks were removed leaving voids for the seeds. I considered keeping the seeds positionable for eye movement but decided that this puppet need only to turn his head and move lightly at the joints. His head was made to swivel by the installation of fitted pipe segments into the base of the head and the top of neck.
Making Twigman made me want to see him in action on the Halfland Macro Set. The studio is OUT OF ROOM so I brought the set pieces down and installed them in our living room on top of a built in bookcase, in front of a window. I raked the snail path set piece down a bit with wood blocks at the back so I could animate upstage more easily. Covered the window casing with tall grass and large flower modules. I'm considering letting the window show in the sky rather than creating a translucent backdrop there. The light is so good and somehow Halfland having the sky be a window may fit.

When I positioned Twigman on the large piece of broken wood on the ground, where he seemed made to sit, I found that he looked to be reading the large preserved leaf on his right. Which makes perfect sense.

For another brief sequence I'd like Twigman to be holding onto a large stem of a dandelion and turn his head to follow the snail as she passes behind. That might be a nice way to intro the evening segment of the series.
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