Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Little Character Folk Swatch Painting: Rana

One of our cats pees over everything. Every. Thing. I spend a lot of time each day scrubbing and cleaning up after her. I had two 10" tall prints of Rana's portraits on my desk to use as reference for retouching the file to order a poster-size version when a wind gust must have dashed them into a pee puddle in the corner. Having them ruined for sure gave me the courage to try a painting technique I'd been curious about, since I would be trashing them anyway, why not try?
Gluing down strands of sheep's wool and costume fabric swatches to the finished folk painting of Rana.
I glued the trimmed print onto watercolor sheet and blue taped a border on the paper. I taped that to a lap-sized desk of gypsum board that had been wrapped in brown paper with the second print next to it to refer to as I went. I was obsessed as soon as I began.

I've never painted before and considered adding the layers of color on separate leaves of acetate, in paint-by-number style before just trying it out to see how it was. I LOVED it! I wouldn't stop working on it for 3 days, stealing moments right from waking up to right to going to bed.

I was hoping to have it be very rustic and folk, to fit with the film's visual style. Very rough with high impasto texture, almost as an impression of the character rather than a portrait. I used a new medium from Nova Color that is nearly as matte as my trusty matte medium but a much thicker, #208 Matte Gel (satin finish thick paste; dries clear), to build up the areas I wanted to be most dimensional.

Even though she's positioned in her cottage, I only detailed the fire-lit hearth behind her shoulder and the dripping honeycomb near her hand to indicate her setting.

I used acrylics with unrefined (cheap) brushes in what I now believe is called dry brush technique, lots of blending colors and off-loading paint on a cloth until it could do what I wanted.
I made up a purpose for doing it (Needing a reason for doing something besides it being illegal amounts of fun.) and now consider it to be a "Swatch Character Painting", with all the little squares of Rana's costume added on as well as a bit of the hair and moss on the kettle lid (above, right) her spider web lace skirt peering out.

I hope to make one for each character eventually and have them bound into a book for viewing at the Halfland exhibition, should things go that way.

Please stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When Your Answer Appears

When your Answer appears on Halfland's Answer Tree, you feel the tender sweep of soft green leaves awake you from your deep sleep. You realize that you lay in perfect comfort on the grass covered ground near the trunk of the Answer Tree and that the tips of its branches have caressed your forehead to awaken you.

You open your eyes in mellow sunlight, feel warm breezes blowing, hear birdsong and insect wing abuzz. It's almost as if you can hear the Wind's voice in the branches above you saying that your answer is ready and waiting for you. You scan the canopy from where you lay, wondering what the Answer Tree will tell you.

Then you see it. The glint of sunlight shimmering among hundreds of other leaves. One gilded leaf has unfolded itself and grown amid the rest. All the wisdom of all the world has been brought to bear upon the question you most longed to satisfy. And now, what you've waited for so eagerly, so longingly that you finally fell into sleep, has, at last, been realized.

All you must do to know is to reach up... and grasp it.

Dear readers, the above story happened to me today. Well, nearly. I sleep under a large tree each night. It's one of several large potted plants and trees in containers that we keep inside our home. This morning, I was gently awoken by its tender, soft, new green leaves brushing across my face. And even still asleep, I knew what had happened. I knew that I was given the feeling that the tree was tenderly waking me, as if it were my care taker.

In that instant I knew that this touch was the way in which Halfland's inhabitants were alerted that their Answer had appeared on the Answer Tree above them.

Several weeks ago, I painted a large fallen leaf with shades of gold. It gave me the idea that the answers on the Answer Tree would turn golden when an answer had emerged. That seemed so RIGHT. And now with what transpired and inspired today, it all came together in a wonderful FLASH! I added a bit of transitional "golding" to scale Answer Tree leaves for steps in the sequence as well.

PS: I still have the original questions that some of you wrote to the Answer Tree and they will be among the first to become real.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Akting Up

Draft of scenes and shots* outlined for the Halfland film series in; a Prelude, Four Main Akts (ordered by Time of Day and Season), The Final Akt ("The Secret Season"); and bonus story featuring "The Answer Tree".

There are also bonus stories written that feature the "The Time Frog" and the "The Bug Party", which I hope to also translate into oversized printed scene illustrated storybooks.

(*made prior to reading ggrandma's book and may be subject to refinement.)

Please stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Thank You, Dear Great Grandmother, Tiny!

Great Grandmother's original dust jacket. (Didn't order this copy with the cover ($42) as I grabbed the first copy I saw ($20) in case it was the only.) Planning however to get a color print of this nice photo of the cover and frame it for inspiration.) Only problem with it is that the inset of the inscribed name and date obscure the rest of the cover text and I can't uncover who, if anyone other than herself, wrote the book's foreword.

My copy came in the mail today and it was a pretty surreal experience. I mean, here we are, exactly 80 YEARS (!), EIGHTY YEARS since my namesake matron published her book on motion picture shooting scripts right as I'm in need of this exact information. C'mon. This is insane.

Not for nothing, the times we live in are utterly remarkable as well. I'm holding in my hands my ggma's book two days after hearing about it for the first time. Something I would never have known even existed in the first place without the web working wonders.

I feel this book will be all the information I'll need to make Halfland the way I'd want. And somehow, that's perfect.


A vintage velvet leaf had a nice gradient of brown to green on it. It was rolled around foam with a wire core and steel wire loops were quickly added and then clipped into legs. Built up with glue and bent, the legs were painted burnt umber. Flower pips and seed pods made up her features and party hat.

Decorating her hat are the finest clear seed beads that came in the treasure box Maggie Rudy gave me. They came from her great grandmother's wedding dress, for goodness sake. To me, they look like caterpillar eggs that usually decorate the underside of leaves.

I think that's why her expression is so bewildered. It's as though she's just looked for her eggs where she thought she left them on the leaf, not remembering she used them around her hat.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Script Girl

Draft of Halfland shot lists
Family lore holds that my maternal great grandmother, Lorraine (Tiny) Noble, was an in-demand script girl at MGM in the 30's (i.e.; Goodbye, Mr. Chips, 1939.) Having this bit of Hollywood legacy gives me the warm feeling of genetic imperative to be in the movie business, even as, in my case, it's a very personal work of film art. Made in Hollywood but not it all by Hollywood.

I was reminded of this connection to movie making when I wrote out the shot list for Halfland the other day.

---OMG! We interrupt this post to bring you actual record of her work for the first time!--

I just Googled my ggmother's name, quite certain there would be ZERO results but I was totally WRONG!! There it was, movies in the right time frame, for the right studios, with her full name. But not as "script girl" as I was told, rather as a... Script Editor! And now, thanks to Google, I know she worked on some of the best movies ever made.

It Happened One Night, by Frank Capra
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Screenplay: Riskin, Robert, edited by Lorraine Noble, New York, 1933.
Awards: Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor (Gable), Best Actress (Colbert), Best Directing, and Best Writing—Adaptation, 1934.

A January 24, 1937 St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper item mentioned her as, "...Lorraine Noble, who has served as film editor and buyer of scripts, therefore, has had a large library to select from and has brought together four works of undeniable importance. These are "Lady for a Day," "It Happened One Night," "Little Women" and "The Story of Louis Pasteur." Terminology of the screen is more difficult to follow than that of the stage, by virtue of Its many technical concessions to the camera and studio lighting. Accordingly, Miss Noble has written two introductory chapters outlining studio procedure and attitudes. Since many authorities are predicting a golden age of the screen, the importance of this text, designed to acquaint amateurs with screen technique, will be apparent."

Pretty blown away as I knew next to nothing about her. I had heard that her mother had come out to California from St. Louis via stagecoach, wearing petticoats and a fresh (unusual) for the times, divorce. So that may be why a St. Louis publication mentioned her 1936 book entitled, in a case of total irony...

Four-star Scripts, Actual Shooting Scripts and How They are Written

Noble, Lorraine (editor)

Published by Doubleday, Doran & Company, Garden City, New York, 1936

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Meet Monty

All the recent sea set building made me want to make some fishes myself. Meet Monty, the blownfish balloon. He'll be carried along in front of the big rock by a friend with an equally haunted expression.
The original dried blowfish bought at Kit Kraft a few years back was recently given a coat of white paint to neutralize his olive grey then an orange wash, and brighter bubblegum pinks. His original fins and tail were taken off and replaced with more lively shapes cut from rippled transparent plastic cups, tinted with florescent pink marker ink. A friendlier mouth and cheeks were added with matte medium, glue and cotton. Eyes were kept fish cold with layers of beads and jewelry findings.

The balloon effect was completed with more painted cotton attached to the top of a painted thread wrapped wire inserted at his belly button, if fish had those.
I considered giving him eyelids for a sweeter expression but opted to keep his eyes fish style. I'm getting to like his particular half-cheerful/half-ugly result. It's a complicated relationship.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Deep Sea Diving

(I'll have you notice that our cat is right behind Jeffrey Roché's black "Octopussy" puppet in the foreground.)
CATFISH!!! heh, Our youngest is pretty good. All our cats seem to respect the building that goes on around here all the time. What you see in back of her is a false backdrop I put at the back of the set box. I opened up the top of the back of the box for light and installed a clear plastic scrim across it as tightly as possible, edge to edge. the bottom edge was buried and finished with sand to blend in.

Behind it, the true furthest back drop is painted black at the center, graduating out to blue. I'm hoping it will make the set expand in depth and read as "far". You can see that it does, lower right below. That's a flat rock behind the scrim to help sell the illusion.
Miss A jumped down INSIDE the deep space area and stared back at me the same way I was staring at her. And I'm afraid to report she developed a bit of an obsession with one of Kit Munro's "See Weed" puppet before I tied it down! She didn't hurt it. She just loved how the fuzzy yarn tickled her whiskers.

Friday, April 01, 2016

See Life

It took a few days to unpack and figure out where each fish puppet wanted to live and rig them up. What little gag did they want to act out? How did they want to swim and move? What action might show them off best?

The pipe rigging should be able to clean plate out and I may even leave in the 34g wire rigging to further a homemade movie impression.
Thought you might like to see how each critter looks in their setting. Credits for each fish creation will be recorded on a torn piece of paper lowered down next to the puppet as if on a fish hook. The scene is short but your contributions will be in there like a star cameo in a Hollywood movie. Thank you again for sharing these wonders.
I wrote how I was so uplifted and delighted by each and every puppet in this scene. I felt every ounce of effort and time that had been poured into each wonderful creation and had to stay in the excitement so as not to sob over it. Y'all are just so talented and kind. (Cool accident: the jellyfish, middle/left above, was gorgeously illuminated with a UV flashlight!)
Once all the inhabitants were in place, I layered tinted plastic over the set's handy openings to diffuse and filter. I made a wet media polyester acetate lens for the front of the set and blurred out a round shape with paint wash in case I want to obscure the frame's edges before the close ups.

The rock on the left is on it's own turn table and can rotate to reveal a few different characters, especially one who is a bit of a Broadway-style show stopper. (hint: he's seen just beneath the "Piano Tuna" in the montage of fish photos above)
The largest rock got painted black and then lined with felt and painted again to reach a blacker than black concave surface that can serve as a key should I want to capture small puppets on their own to drop into the scene in post.
More on the deep sea effect tomorrow...
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