Thursday, April 30, 2015

Getting Smarter

Why, look who's making his first real appearance in the making me department. It's Urhu, the serpent sage musician. In a Halfland speed record breaking performance, his armature and body build-up was made one night, his costume design decided, his head sculpted the next day, and the day after that (today) a new type of mold-material was used to successfully mold that sculpt.

Above is a montage of how the puppet currently looks with a audition sketch of concept I have for the finishing his scales.
Urhu was to be the only major 1/2L character that would be made with the build-up method vs. sculpting/mold making/casting. In hunting for what to use as his armature, I selected a length of Loc-Line. I fussed with it until I worked out how to configure a neck stem and arm with fittings. I added coated wire inside to firm his position holding and lengths of dowel for straight bones.

I caged the whole thing in multiple strands of wire(s) to hopefully keep it together should the Loc-Line fail, wrapped it in multiple layers of foam wrap, teflon and floral tapes, and building out bulk with layers of foam packing material secured with glue and masking tape.

I decided to have all the big characters use the same sized hand(s), all equally crude and articulate. Lower right shows it being bulked out with wire and more packing foam pieces.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Surfing the Web

Saw a piece of dried grass woven into a real world spider web out back (upper left). This wasn't a case of it blowing into an existing web, but rather, like life being very Halflandian, the spider must have actually used the grass as part of the building of her web.

In Halfland, spider webs are lace crochet. Here the latest creation is attracting Time Fly fans for the Macro garden set. Made from painted crochet tights sewn onto branches with invisible thread.

Monday, April 27, 2015

All the Comfort's of Home.

Finally added tiny lights to the snail's porch lantern and interior.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Drag Gone Fly

A little card inspired making a dragonfly for the pond set. I had crackled onto clear plastic with black ink and laminated it onto dichroic film for his wings. He'll fly around the plants above the pond to finish off the pond's cast of characters.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

With a Twist!

I thought the hermit puppet would need to eat a lemon cupcake so I set to build a slice for the top. In the end he didn't need that as the bug party has fabulous cakes making his unnecessary to have in the film. They came out so nice I decided to make a little lemon and add the slices with it into a hand-thrown ceramic bowl for the tea service tray. While I was at it, I used a failed carved spoon to serve up some wonderfully fresh. messy, berry jam on the tray as well!
I took dried lime skins, painted them yellow, cut segments of the juicy flesh out of soft foam wrap. Used paper strips between each segment. Loved how authentic these look when backlit, cells full of juice.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Now Hear This!

Generous, talented, Argentinia-born friend, with a luxuriously ruby-throated voice, María José Marañón graciously agreed to narrate Halfland's first ever trailer last year.  

I had edited the resulting audio shortly after she recorded, mixed with several takes of her reading in layers to give a sense of Halfland being "multi-dimensional". We recorded at my computer with a $10 USB microphone that I had wrapped her up with in upholstery foam, like a giant taco. Good sport!

I delayed posting the first draft as I had hoped to pair it with its visuals, stills at least, and so have been scrambling to get shots done to put it all together since.

But tonight, after sneaking up on myself, I thought to take what I had done before and re-cut it with different melodies and soundscapes in a moment of fresh clarity. Wait no more to hear it.

Perhaps you could listen*, without any visuals at all, and tell me if you can picture it with your imagination.

Halfland Trailer Audio 1.0 MP3 

(*I was able to embed a link to an MP3 of the audio but any which way I try to embed the file in Blogger it gets too garbled when compressed.)

Thank you again,  María José. I am in awe of the richness of your voice. Thank you for coming over.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Halfland Is About This...

Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words

and everything in the world understands it.


Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything

and it can always speak,

without even making a sound, to another soul.

Frances Hodgson Burnett,

from A Little Princess
(Warne, 1905)

A visitor to the Mouse's chalet in the roots of the Answer Tree.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Strolling Twigs

Seen walking in the garden's afternoon light.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Behaving Like a Real Pansy

Wanted to make blue and lavender pansy flowers for the foreground fencing set very much. Tried not to*. Didn't work. Made em. Planted em, in three clusters, with holes and glue directly into the landscape. So now, along with the orange, at least there's more fullness to the color spectrum there. (It's only inside Rana's home that the color palette narrows to reds/wines/berries/ochers/pinks exclusively.) I feel done with it now**.

The fence/gate set will likely appear in the wide angle view (furthest away) of the cottage set, perhaps some butterfly on flower action shots, any possible interstitial title shots for chapter starts, etc., but primarily will open the bug party sequence to show how small the bugs are by contrast.

The post is done but here are two more whines to sip on:

*So far I have NOT been able to actually leave things well enough alone on Halfland. Whenever I try to cut items out to get done more quickly it'll gnaw at me until it's easier to just do the bloody thing I said I wouldn't. I have successfully cut out the Marching Ants and the Queen Bee so far until all else has been filmed.

**Can't wait to shoot the bug party so I can stow these large set pieces away to regain working room around the main set. I'm currently walking sideways and can't even reach the far side at all for more than a year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Knitting Beetles!

Finally done and already at work at Rana's bedside table, the Knitting Beetles are done. How they were made, below.

One rolls the yarn balls, one knits on tiny mushroom stalks. They are both well secured into their places. The rolling beetle rolls the yarn by a rod running through the ball. /his wire arms will just move as though he is rolling while the yarn ball will roll independently frame by frame.

I added texture and detail and color to them after they were fully secured to the mini set which added a lot of challenge. Stayed away from making them too accurately "beetle-like", making heads a bit bigger, etc. to keep the creep factor down. (The extra two bugs made got dressed in their most festive duds and will be attending the bug party, w00t! No waste.)

Elastic wrap, wire, thread, and glue, that's my bug armature build-up bug making method. These were fitted into painted acorn shells.
Beetle tummies were made from soft cell foam wrap wrapped with steel wire and shoved into the bug's undersides. Once done, the vignette was installed onto Rana's nightstand which in turn was attached to an independent portion of cottage flooring so they can be secured to the set floor and removed in one solid piece.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hello, Hermit!

Hey, how's it going? Found this little shell in a bead shop recently and sort of had to
whip up the hermit puppet to live in it.
Seen through my new magnifying lamp, upper left shows the reference image used to inspire Hermit's eye stalks. I added a tiny teacup handle and footing, both made from glue and paper, to the shell and painted a bit after how some shells are decorated in Nature. This one, half seashell, half teacup.

He is firmly secured to that strip of sand-covered landscape so his eyes can follow other creatures around without shifting his cup one bit.

Welcome, little fellow, to the Halfland sea!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Meet The OYSters!

Pearl and Smokey sitting in their shell on the bottom of the Halfland Sea
watching all the other Halffishes swim by. I bet Pearl has a few choice comments
about the others, while Smokey just puffs away quietly on his cigar.

Wire and glue made Pearl's cat's eye frames. When I pushed down on Smokey's head, I was surprised to see Pearl's glasses lift above her eyes! I must have accidentally attached her glasses' wire into the velvet he's made of which makes the couple animated in a hilarious way. (I mean, I meant to do that, yeah, that's it, it was planned!) Every so often, I may have Smokey shrink down and grimace for the fun of it.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Wax On!

Could do this all the live long day (--but won't in the interest of Time.) Made a few paper flowers and planted them along the foreground fence set. The preserved tea tree branches didn't hold their color and were repainted after all, but they did hold their leaves? so, they were a half-fail?
After making the blossoms and foliage I used pure beeswax, melted in a measuring cup inside an art saucepan (then kept warm on a mug warmer), and brushed it onto each petal and leaf. I was hoping it would turn the crepe paper more translucent, like resin does, but the finish is still interesting and seems will keep their shape better than without it.

Would love to add more flowers. It's enjoyable. But sometimes leaving elements a bit underdone is better for the project overall. Pencils down.

Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Artist Alert:: Maggie Rudy

Maggie Rudy's work makes me crazy with love. Her mice characters are filled with emotion and her way with the attitudes of their heads and the subtle gesture of their bodies makes them come fully alive.

As a major fan of hers, I have taken the liberty of sending her a wee parcel each early Spring filled with miscellany of tiny prints in fabric and paper, art materials, what have you, that I think she may enjoy working with in her ongoing makings. I keep a small box on my sewing table and add new things to it as they come across my path during the year, sealing and shipping it off to her around February.

The first year, she sent back the above image of one of her Mouseland characters showing off the shiny new Halfland button he'd received in the box! She also kindly wanted to do something more in exchange, so I of course suggested a small undersea scene puppet. She beat me to the punch of animating first in Halfland and sent the clip below last year of a hermit she'd made for her extraordinary book, I wish I had a pet (seen in action upper right below) published in 2014, by Beach Lane Books.
For this year's thank you, she generously sent me a signed copy of the book which is a treasure in every way. Everything she uses in her dimensional storybook illustrations is handmade and divinely detailed. Above are just a small sampling of what awaits in this story. All of her books are worth reading to delighted children of all ages.
Halfland's first underwater sequence! As shot by artist Maggie Rudy, my art sister by another mister.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Catch of the Day:: It's a Jarring Experience!

In the set storage on our back porch, I keep all the underwater set building materials in a big plastic bag. Well, the natural sunlight came through the bag and back lit all the lovely seaweed and whatnot.

Girrrl, you know I wasn't going to do anything concerning the underwater set right now, but, um, it kept looking so damn great! It kept gnawing at me as the solution for the underwater set. My eye also caught hold of the perfect distortions a large round glass jar filled with water offered as a camera "lens". Above are some tests shots of the Koi puppet via various angles of "lens whacking" with the filled jar. No other edits were made to these shots, SOOFFC (Straight Out Of F'ing Camera).
Set up as a broad set, with sand-covered surface for the ocean bottom, using 16:9 ratio on the shoot camera(s), removing rigging in post, um, yeah, that's the underwater set concept sorted.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Cloak and Dagger

All dressed for travel, Rana wears her new hooded cloak and basket harness, ready to carry
Kyra along with her. In front of her are some of the twig characters in the garden,
a pas de deux couple dance at her feet, while Twigman reads a fallen answer leaf.

Mood Fabrics comes through again with the most sumptuous luxurious fabrics that I couldn't imagine looking for, and yet I find them there. After auditioning several fabrics for a couple weeks, even going to another great fabric store specifically for what I thought would be right (wasn't), it was a trip to the great fabric mecca now on La Brea in LA (with another in New York) that did Halfland good. Very good. Here's how:

What you see above is my draping the Rana puppet with the fabrics I bought at Mood for her cloak to see which to use and how. The left two show a highly textured woven wool in red and a second choice of an incredible plum wine woolen boiled (felted) cashmere that I bought a smaller amount of. They both looked right as compared to the nearly all white cobweb look I had been leaning towards did. The weight was better and the darker reds more in keeping with the character. She'll still wear cobwebs as she walks through them though.

It came together when I decided to use the plum fabric to embellish the red with a simple vine applique all around the bottom and to trim the opening of the hood. The rest was used to line the hood and as much of the cape interior as possible. This way, both colors got to be worn. Seeds, pods, acorn nuts, and beans were used for the flower centers.
A close up of the red fabric being sew; waxed linen was used to secure the trimming around the arm openings; Rana in her work clothes trying on the new rope harness (accidentally found at Mood--requiring no mods to use! $10!!) See how the basket looks on her back in this post; my 1960's vintage papier mache Mexican pin cushion (inherited from a grandmother I never met) cleaned and refurbished. I made her a new sand-filled top for my new glass head pins, to keep them razor sharp. She sits on top of the cloak fabrics before I started embellishing them; the rope harness was sanded to distress and then painted yellow ocher to match the palette everything got a good pressing after being completed. Of course all openings and edges of the garment were wired to hold position during filming.

Looks warm and comfy. Let's GO! We must take Tarn to the Sage...

Rana's Four Season Hat: From a Bedtime Story!

One recent night, I had the pleasure of telling a bedtime story to two little flowers that live downstairs. Always a tricky proposition, as trying to get little girls to go to sleep is akin to trying to remove a soft fluffy bunny rabbit from the maw of an alligator. One wrong move and snap! go the jaws.

As I sat on the small wooden chair between the two tiny beds in their room, I tried to make my voice as smooth and mellow as I could. If I could hypnotize them with the sound of my voice, while telling a story that would pleasantly engage their imagination, they would both hopefully drift off to the land of nod, fast!

I had no idea what to say to them. So I quickly searched my mind for the sensory experiences that were happening around them, the chilled wind outside their windows, the warmth of their beds, etc., which got me onto the seasons in Halfland. And as I was telling them about how Halfland's seasons happen all at the same time, depending on where you were, it hit me that Rana was in charge of that. That in fact, she was the Keeper of Time. The Time Frog had lived near her but I hadn't realized that Rana was actually Wisdom and Age thereby its keeper. It now made sense why all the seasons were taking place in a single Halfland day.

The next day, I further embellished her hat brim to show this new idea. Next to the bumblebee and honeycomb veil, I added strawberries, picked from her kitchen window box, for Summer. Fresh pink roses and buds for Spring, Autumn leaves and cracked nuts for Fall, and snowy birch branches for Winter.

Can you imagine my surprise when I heard myself tell the little girls, all snug in their beds, about the season that only happens in Halfland?! "The Secret Season"?! How when they were in Halfland, and if they stood in just the right place and listened very closely to the tapping of the Time Frog's clock, they would slip into this place, this season between the seasons.

I saw it as a golden place and knew at once it was the Sage's desert. But before I could tell them the girls were asleep...but now I've told it to you!

Halfland Epiphany

While working on Rana's costume recently, I realized what she symbolized, as well as what all other characters in the story were. Had to write it down quickly on an over-sized sheet on the floor while I had a hold of the threads. Helpful cats were helpful.

I kind of feel as though if I had made Halfland before this new understanding of how the metaphors and symbols connected into the story then I might have missed what it was really about.

A few days later, I also realized that each day in Halfland was equivalent to a year in our world and that the four akts of the story occur thusly:
I. Dawn--Spring
II. Day--Summer
III. Dusk--Fall
IV. Dark--Winter
V. The Secret Season
Having the story diagrammed helped to organize where the meat was located for Halfland printed storybooks. Book 1 is entitled The Keeper of Time and covers meeting Rana at the Answer Tree cottage and her happy visit from her beautiful friend Kyra. Book 2 is called The Secret Season and takes the reader along on their crucial trip into the golden desert finding help for an injured friend.

So simple, yet so fulfilling for this film.

Surprises that day: Writing Mouse acts as "memory" for Rana and whispers things that have happened into her ear as he's been keeping written record. The crow woman, Tarn represents "dark thoughts" and is ultimately brought to light through sound by the sage musician.

Thank you for waiting and watching while it all came together.
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