Sunday, May 31, 2015

Halfland's Cat Staff

Thought you might like to see the whole current cat staff. Starting clockwise from upper left; the Bengali-like newbee discovering the sets for the first time. She's a dear and very affectionate, growing half her size again day after day. We love the gold mark at the top of her head.

Next is a rare sighting of the isolated kitty who lives all alone in the studio without any contact due to being totally feral and never taming enough to trust much. She's a lovely lilac-point Tonkanese we got from the canyon we used to live in almost 20 years ago. Her whiskers have grown in better since her brother kitty passed away. He used to chew them off (wtf?). Her coat is healthy. She's doing a great job. She got noticeably less anxious after eating a nutritional supplement that adds in minerals and enzymes to their food.

The all over grey is an extremely large, double-plush coated Chartreux from under the flower pots at a Home Despot about 13 years ago moments before she would have surely died of starvation (she weighed zero on the vet's scale). She hated when we got the cat to her right last year and lost most of her weight down to skin and bones. But this time we introduced the new cat much differently and it seems to have been largely stressless for all. I keep her happy/healthy now by letting her outside in a fenced area out back on sunny afternoons.

Lastly, the feisty Tortoiseshell! Here she is being her normal naughty-naughty self sitting deliberately in the pond set strictly because she knows I get upset she might damage it. (Its protective box was off that day because the new kitten was going after the flying bugs on the party set!)

It's a lot of expense and time to keep the cats as happy and healthy as we can. But boy, do we love having them. They were all rescues but I think they are the ones who rescued us.


She's very very special. And SHE adopted US last week.

(better photos here.)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Grass Roots Effort

The Urhu puppet in the process of finishing; painting, shading, hair, costuming coming along.

Yes, those are preserved tufts of real grass with their roots growing upside down on his head as hair because all thoughts grow from his head.

Yes, he does look rather romantic holding his robes, forging against strong winds!

Yes, it is tremendous fun to make puppets for stop motion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bidding Christine! a Fond Farewell...

A happy departure from Halfland for a change, yay! Our wonderful friend Christine! and her uber talented husband, and brand-spanking-new bebe toddler are pulling up stakes from LA for the time being, following fantastic job opportunities in other parts of the country, including New York. New York!

Christine! has been of invaluable help here in the new Halfland. At a time when I was not yet well, she appeared like an angel, to help build the new sky and get things underway once again.
She even made an extraordinary start at making the Queen Bee puppet, seen in progress above. Christine!, as a fine artist, was in the process of creating a fine art piece of a character, with hand painted yellow and black fin bodies and delicate cutout kirigami wings.

As a great mom, Christine! has been a wee bit busier than before the little one arrived. But we've stayed in touch and plan to continue working together on design projects as we can.

Christine! Thank you for reaching out to me from the Times article. Thank you for bringing your extensive artistic street-cred to bear on Halfland. Thank you for coming over so much and helping me work through my challenges with your trademark sensitivity and positivity.

You are a blessing in my life and I am wishing for you every moment of your life to be a joy. Only joy for you. Only Every Joy.

R's Pinecones in Halfland!

Just added to Rana's Four Seasons hat, the super special tiny pine cones sent to me from longtime Halfland friend Jeffrey's son all the way from Louisiana USA!

I added them to the winter branches and then installed a sheer woven veil in black dotted with glass crystal stars. This is how Night falls in Halfland.

(Thank you, R! (and Jeffrey!) xoxoxoox)

Monday, May 25, 2015

Give Him a Man-i-cure!

I could build puppets all day, Man. Actually, I do. For Urhu' s one-good-hand (the character only has a human face, shoulder, half--torso, arm, and hand. The rest of him is all serpentine.) Wired extensions to his finger tips were covered with paper and elastic glue. Nails made from star anise pod pieces were glued on, wooden bead knuckles, and further foam build out were all mâchéd in. Rolled paper and thick thread veins were added to the inside of his wrist (lower left) as the nails were drying on his finger tips.
I crudely wired his pearl bead eyes into place with steal wire that was embedded into the face's interior. You may notice that I have the bead holes orientated horizontally in this case which will prevent this character from having any real eye movements. Fortunately, all he'll need do in his scenes is to perhaps glance upward slightly, which I can accomplish by rolling the beads from outside his face or I can ultimately alter them digitally, if needed.

In the open mouth seen above upper right, you can see that orange wooden teeth were secured into the lower jaw. (I've since removed the serpent fangs from his upper jaw because I don't need any further creepy triggers/associations with this character. He needs to be appealing and comfortable and yet also remain true to what his form essentially is... reptilian.

You know me, his hand looked fine (top photo set lower right) but I wanted better definition around his instrument-playing nails. I glued on fairly thick cording around his cuticles, secured them with more elastic glue all over when the position-tacking had dried, and then radically trimmed them down to as natural a feeling I could. I built up the nail beds with elastic glue which will later be made matte when he gets his final manly manny.

Next stop, What color is the typical Secret Season Desert Dwelling Serpent Sage Musician anyway???

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Let's Face It!

Loving the Composi-mold! Made a second part of the back of Urhu's head, mainly to include the ears as they are an important feature for this character.

Using my torn Tengo washi and Fray Stop glue mâché technique, I was able to make a strong, multi-layered part. To help keep its shape, I used small expandable wire mesh as one of the layers, in between paper.

I was delighted by how the molds made with Composi-Mold flexed without damage and released the part without the use of a release of any kind! In love. The mold material is reusable but I'm thinking of keeping the face front mold intact, for archiving, and buying MORE Composi-Mold for additional puppets upcoming.

Once the head parts were released from their molds, I set about slicing the eyes and mouth open with a blade, adding wire-filled brows and bottom lip, and thin foam over cheeks and jowls, to help the puppet keep its structure during animation.

I also stuffed the prominent chin hard with wooden beads and crammed whetted paper as grabbing it will be my only way to change his jaw position from closed to slightly open. His nose, chin, and upper lip were reinforced with heavy wire and wood during the casting process from the inside as I didn't want these faces to become too malleable as their scene goes on.

I'll hope to have some gentle expression changes from this character chiefly by altering his brows and mouth.

Next post, see how his pearl eyes were rigged from the inside and how his one hand was finished...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How Things Really Get Done Around Here

Don't you worry about how Urhu the Serpent Sage Musician's costume is coming along, helpful helpers are helping!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Body Building

Once the character's form was established over his armature with foam and masking tape, I needed a way to add more articulate shape to flesh him out. Some animators can build up with foam and latex for this but I wanted something I could control better and that would finish as if cast with paper into a mold, like the puppet's head had been.

My solution was a kid's play clay product by Crayola (no brand deal) called Model Magic. It's air dry and extremely lightweight, sculptable, although it's doesn't blend. I added a thin layer to my base and proceeded to add bulk where I wanted on the character's single, powerful, masculine arm. I added scaly texture into the clay with a sweater-covered button. Once his arm and chest were done I added a belly and some upper abdomen anatomy.

I was very happy with this technique for building puppet bodies and plan to use it ongoingly. The only caveat was that cracking and fissures appeared as the clay layer dried. This was resolved by filling in the valleys with glue-whetted paper until they disappeared, seen on the chest and shoulder lower right.

The whole human skin side was then finished with a single additional layer of paper and elastic glue. And his only hand finished. (head and turban fabric, still in progress, are being checked for size(s) above.)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Serpent Tail's Scales

Mood Fabrics, yeah, so they have this amazing selection of sequined fabrics. Things I never knew could exist. The month before, I had found an exquisite fine scale circular sequined piece there to use for the Mermaid's tail and intended to use it for the serpent sage's as well. But when I saw this larger fish scale like material in black all my alarm bells went off, had to have it. It was $80/yard so I bought the minimum of 1/4 yard for $20 and it covered his whole tail perfectly.

Above you can see some of my initial experiments in how I will be adding colors to it once installed on the puppet. Below shows how I applied the material to the puppet tail using needle and thread and Nova's super gel medium, pinned in place to dry.
Because it's fabric, it flexes beautifully with every direction and movement the serpent tail makes. I could never have placed each scale with such mathematical precision as this find has allowed. I used joss paper cut into lozenge-shaped hexagons for under-belly scales.

Upcoming posts will show how his human-half upper-body has been sculpted and head was finished....

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Urhu's Liquid Gold Robe

The Wise Serpent Musician's costume continues apace.

I have no clue where I got this piece of fabric, having a trace of memory that it may have been in a slew of things Constance gave me.

I'm using the inside of it, the "wrong" side. It was some sort of throw pillow case with a zipper and underneath these quilted applique reptilian/petal shapes are threadbare stars in wine. Covering them with colors from this character's palette, brings the whole piece, now stitched into a rectangle and lined in silk, into the realm of heavy, sacred, robing.

It's extremely thick and the way it's woven and never been exposed to air, gives it the appearance of liquid gold.

His turban, seen lower left, is made from a layer of opaque saffron silk and a matching sheer, both found at Mood.

When I stitched the two strips into a long finished band it seemed a shame to have two of the same color layered without being able to see there were two layers so I slipped pieces of dried grasses, twigs, a few faux leaves, and real roots in between them and stitched them into place.

Now when I wrap Urhu's head with it and the plants begin growing from it, at the end of the filmed story, they will subtly look as though they are emerging from a place of rich growing potential.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Don't Fence Me In

Had some hand-made paper flowers that weren't up to quality to use at the 1/3 scale main set size. So I flashed on how I could duplicate the fence at smaller scale(s) quite quickly and use them on those to help fill in areas of landscape logic when shooting upcoming scenes.

Above you see a portion of the main set foreground fence line, a length of it reduced by 46% or so and another, much smaller to be used on the backdrop to suggest fencing very far away.
 My down and dirty method was to make a scrim of clear packing tape on the backside of the main fence and to sketch the pickets and rails with a black marker. I then scanned the tracing and printed out whatever reduction I could get from the limited-settings on our printer. Cut these out of chipboard, textured, notched out the shapes, folded up the rails for dimension and planted them in small pieces of ground.

Then I chopped up old green fabric knits along with yellow art paper into scale scatter pieces. Applied them to the two new set pieces with matte medium which disappears completely when dry. Planted the less-good flowers on them and started setting up shots to see where they might be used in backgrounds, through windows, that sort of view, when needed.

Friday, May 08, 2015

"Maintenance Never Stops"

Finally made a fast grab and growl trip to my favorite paint shop anywhere, Nova Color Paint (no brand deal, just love them). Made a big haul of colors and mediums that I'd used up in Halfland, plus a few little gifties for artistic friends in less then 10 minutes. Want to go again and stay longer. Again, one of my most favorite places to visit in LA.

One thing I do when I get back home is to make a circle smear of the color purchased on the lids of the jars to both cover over where the shop marks the prices in black (I don't need to see prices in my face when I want to use an item. It can make me hesitate to use the stuff freely, even with Nova's minimal prices) and so I can see the colors at a glance from their stacked wire bins.

I keep my colors in groups of neutral/fleshes, warms, mediums, cools, dyes/tints, and metallics. Having the new stock made me go through and throw out any dried up bottles and to organize what's left nicely.

Another shop system task done recently, but that doesn't show as well, is seen to the right of the paints. I made dozens of stapled paper envelopes for each of the remaining-to-be-done reference image boards, filing them by character, by set piece, or by production area, and bound them with a bulldog clip labelled with each name.

This makes working on several puppets and or other areas for the films at once easier. I can just grab the needed over-sized packet, now sorted into three giant cardboard category folders, spread the image boards out onto a table or the floor and work. Before the bound envelopes and folders it was hard to keep the growing number of boards for each item together when retrieving and re-retrieving and re-re-retriving them.

As the free-range homeless, former Motown singer, criminal dude we used to pay to wash our car and sweep the stairways at the loft taught me, "Maintenance never stops."

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Close-up Tour of the Four Seasons Gardening Hat

Take a tour above, round and round the round brim of Rana's garden hat.

When you look at icy cold, snow covered thorny branches, it's Winter.

Whenever you see bright blossoms and buds emerging, it's Spring.

When you can feel the heat of the Sun on field grasses, bees gathering, and juicy sweet fruits, it's Summer.

And when you can see the slow transition from long green days to the chilled air, half-eaten acorn nuts, mushroom stands, and flame-colored leaves, it's Autumn time.

In Halfland, it's all happening at once, depending on where you are, and where you look.


(PS: Remind me to show you where you may find Halfland's Secret Season.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2015


Picked up these three feathers while in the backyard with the cat. Not only are they the perfect "paint-dipped" paint brushes for Halfland's Chicken Painter, Motif, to use in his scene, but they are also in the exact right primary colors for him?!

I don't ever see birds of these colors in our area. I find it wild that I should look down to find them where I was.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Quite a Wild Pair!

 If you found yourself in a strange forest wood, would you take advice and help from these two?

Not a fair question as the serpent sage doesn't live in Halfland's half land. He stays completely in Halfland's golden desert, in the Secret Season. But Rana will be visiting him there with the whole gang when they bring an injured friend to him for help.

Thought it then important to take a check of how the in progress Urhu serpent sage musician character looked next to the completed main character, Rana the goat woman.

And may I say, seeing them finally together, outside of my head, thrills me deeply.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

First Use of Composi-Mold

I love moldmaking. It's in my bones. But.... I also hated doing it in the past because it meant putting on intense safety gear, going outside (shudder), working with material that could harm my health, etc. It was always a dangerous, heavy, cumbersome ordeal, even though I loved working with "cement".

Saw containers of Composi-Mold at my local art supply shop and while it was pricey for me, it was also rated as safe, eco-friendly, and... reuseable! I splurged on a small container to try out so long ago that when I saw it again in the store I bought it again!

I don't use/have a microwave but their site indicated that it would work as well with a double boiler so I did that. I used metal jar lids to keep a small glass bowl off the bottom of the art pan and gently melted down cubes of it. It cut easily with scissors.

Meanwhile, I (mistakenly, but it's alright) coated the sculpt all over with petroleum jelly as a mold release. I used a tin can half-filled with a mixture of wet sand and red clay as a base to hold the back of Urhu's head. I slowly drizzled the melted Composi-Mold over the face of the sculpt hoping that it wasn't hot enough to actually melt the modeling clay. I couldn't tell for sure if he was surviving in there, even through it's handy translucent quality, but I figured even if he distorted from the process it would only make things even more interesting.
I took a few goodbye shots of him and then proceeded to build up thickness of the Composi-Mold with multiple batches until it was thick enough. Wasn't sure whether I'd need to make it a two part mold and won't know until I cast tomorrow, but not only did the original sculpt come out completely unscathed, it seems as though the deep undercuts of the chin and ears have been captured fully in just one part.

Next up: Casting Urhu in Washi Mache, stay tuned!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Snake Eyes

Adding clay onto the foam ball with neoprene shapes glued to it and referring to my image boards. Using soft silicone shaper tools for smoothing areas too fine for my fingers to fit.

Urhu's body made in the build-up style was fine, especially because his tail will be covered over with scales to finish it but I needed a way of getting more control over how his face would look. I hit upon the hybrid idea of bodies by build up faces by casting sculpts. I tried it out on this puppet and think it's going to be the way I make all future puppets.

It was so fun to sculpt again, I'd forgotten how much I love it and want to make sure I do it again and often.

The objectives for this Liminal Being (creatures "on the threshold", ambiguously between here and "there") was as follows:

• Primordial features/suggestive of reptilian head and brow shape/yet also humanoid
• Mute/yet smiling
• Wise/Elegant/Crudely rendered
• Prominent ears to emphasize the importance of sound to this character
• Friendly yet isolated
• Meditative/ Spiritually sensitive
Grabbed my #1 favorite oil based modelling clay, Klean Klay that Michael Curry introduced me to. Kept adding pieces until the character showed up as a surprise. Don't they always?!
I had no idea he'd look like this but I think it's right and will fit right into the Halfland handmade world.
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