Tuesday, October 26, 2021

In Vest Meant

Brief note to say that I built a little loom from a wooden tray and combs, etc., and used it to weave the large mouse puppet a little traveling coat in his color green. This will be his costume for the big trip to the Secret Season as he slips into Rana's apron pocket for the trip.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Truss Me!

I learned about how trusses can hold roof slopes together from our renovation to the attic.
So when Kyelynn and I set about getting the roof to stay in position without a center post
it seemed like the perfect solution here too!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, for the first time anywhere, the Halfland cottage with a very strong and solid roof, secured to outer walls at the edges and held together with a wooden truss. When I grab the truss and try to rattle the roof, nothing moves! Nothing.

We attached the cupola to the rafters rather than try to keep them all removable because I can film the cottage interior from any side around the tree. I found that I only needed certain walls to come out; the one to the right of the front door, the bay window, and the bedroom window. Kyelynn had the grand solution of installing a new upright post at the door threshold to attach the rafter directly which leaves the wall there (seen in place above) able to come in and out as needed without altering the roof in any way. Feels like sorcery. A Half House.

Two truss beams sandwich the rafters in such a way to allow me to install the handmade candlelier on a pencil (which makes me laugh). I had given up on including this prop in the house because I couldn't get it to look as though it was hanging but to actually be rigid before. In this new setting, it was easy. I've filled the holes Upstairs Clare had left in the front door using small dowels and then staining/aging them with acrylic and chalk washes. 

Here you can see the FANTASTICALLY textured 100-year-old fence wood (that 1/2L patron Shari gave me a few years ago) to the door's now (more narrow) threshold and it looks like it should have always been there! It matched the Answer Tree as if it grew into place. Thank you, Shari!
The fasteners have been painted to match and holes/seams filled.

I'll need a new latch for the inside of the door as the new upright made the opening significantly more narrow. I hand-cut the beautiful old wood to cover all four sides of the new post, as well as the existing left side. It made the round entry rug weirdly half-placed under the front wall but I figure that's On Brand for Halfland and not worth demoing walls to move. I'll fix it by planting grass.
Everything can be fixed by planting more grass! Remember that!

I tested whether the Rana puppet could still fit through the door and she can
but it looks tight so I won't be showing her moving through the doorway in the film. Not a problem.

Look for the upcoming post about the finished pulley prop for the water barrel on the porch seen on the right! 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Model Citizen

The paper model proved very useful for visualizing the cube lighting rig
and how it would function for all the set's needs.

I needed to mock it up in cardboard before Kyelynn and I set about building the structure around the main set stage that would need to hold the small lights, support the background birch trees in all four corners, and most importantly hold the curve in the atmosphere/blur layers with their taught tensioning.  

I made the whole set room with windows and all outlets and pieces of stage/rigging/furniture/saw horses/lens holder/tables needed in order to verify and perfect the plan.

The actual LIFE-SIZED rigging build was completed this week with Kyelynn and it went very well and the key key was having made and studied the model all the way through the process. It allowed for problems to be worked out and for new insights and ideas to emerge on the fly.

An intractable issue is how much smaller the room is compared to the insane expanse I had (at the 4k sq' loft previously). But this is what I have to work with so I'll be grateful and make it work. It's tight, and the long shot is no longer long, but at least I can proceed to shoot scenes shortly. And I have light! And I'll have sky the way I must have it.

Upcoming Post: How tent posts (!)  Yes, beaucoup tent posts! and huge swaths of sheer voile blur my world.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Artist Alert: Alice Fox (AKA a RISD Rana)

Just saw this short video about artist Alice Fox in the UK. She has found a focus for her work in mainly using or reusing materials found on the plot of land she is the steward of. Her work is elevated and fine, meaningful and textural. A noble and admirable artist to me and very much akin to my personal sensibilities, her output is mind-bogglingly prodigious, my Halfhat is off to her.

Very natural world, noticing closely and making use of what is available, very sophisticated fine art. It struck me that she was akin to my main character Rana, the wise goat woman with allegorical authority over wisdom and memory, with one important difference.

Where Ms. Fox took her values and talents into an elevated fine art aesthetic, I took a back alley to goofy bugs at a party, a rustic, rough, craft style. More storybook than museum. Paul asked me if I felt regret over not having been to a school like the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) as we always admire the work of people who have degrees from there. It always seemed to us that that school, in particular, took its students into a magical room where creativity and art and the world of art-making were explained to them privately and exclusively. So his question came from years of observing the difference between what they do and what I do (or don't do).

My answer is no. It wasn't in any way possible for me to have gone that route in life. Not in temperament nor responsibility. And I find a certain homogenized quality in fine art education that isn't interesting to me ultimately. So no, I don't wish that I had a proper art education or understanding.

But sometimes I do feel unimportant with my little bugs and such. Even more than my fear of not being able to complete this massive project in the next few years is a visitation of objective perspective that the entire endeavor is perhaps not Art at all.

There were years that I wanted Halfland to receive (eventual) film festival awards or awards from specifically the annual MacArthur Foundation (unbidden) genius award, that would signal to myself and others that I am talented, that I am worth something of actual value in the opinion of learned others. I wanted that so powerfully it used to actually hurt my stomach in a grip of acute desire. But not now.

At some point over the last few years, all that dropped away naturally, like mud dissolving in the rain.

Making Halfland, even these stages of building the sets and puppets, only imagining the end results, is already fully fulfilling.

I was driving my 96-year-old ballet teacher to an appointment recently and commenting that I felt an urgency to finish Halfland or I feared it would remain only a permanent potential. He corrected me, as is his way, that even the thought of something is already something.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Doing 1,000 Things at Once

Before bombarding this blog with a slew of exciting new 1/2L action posts, here's a little tease,
a mere taste of what the heck I was also getting done in my house and home and garden and kitchen. Each image represents 30,000 small details that I can't describe in the space allowed by law.
Let's just agree to say that living life takes a great deal of time.
Four years ago we were fortunate enough to buy the house we had been renting for five years.
While taking care of minor repairs, a previously undiscovered attic with a 9' ceiling was revealed.
We embarked on a year-long process of transforming the two-story house into a three-story house.
It had been completely untouched for over 100 years, it needed to be made stronger
and by the end of construction had become more useful than we could have known.

On the left was my linen cupboard that was removed to build the beautiful
staircase taking you onto the new attic level, as seen on the right.
(Here's an example of dear husband using the space, in case anyone is interested.)

On the left, how the backyard looked when we bought the property,
and on the right is how the same view appears now at night. 
A tour is really needed to see all the raised beds for growing food crops
and the extraordinary pergola patio Kyelynn and I made
from the antique lumber removed during the attic renovation.
PS: A paint storage cupboard was built to cover the electrical meter box seen on the left side.
The doors for it came from the former hallway linen cabinet! Waste not--waste nothing.

Recognize these junk friends with vintage hardware features around the garden?
Yep, the linen drawers were put to fun use as well!

 Much constant work inside too. Above you see Paul's growling collection of books
cluttering up the living room until our builder created for him a full wall of custom shelves in his office.
Now each book is cleaned off, organized, and labeled by subject for easier reference.

There's so much more that can be shown, every dark forgotten place sorted and brought to order,
even under the kitchen sink. Anything no longer needed was given away. Pandemic-time Clean.

All this to say that from these newly shooken-out (not a word but should be) spaces, Halfland, although remedied last, has been brought forward just as much, perhaps even more. Hang onto your Halfhats!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Giant Whacking Lens for Dreamy Storybook Film

The first 1/2L task I asked of builder Kyelynn was to frame out my all-important clear-spot fresnel lens.
These salvaged old tv plastic lenses are VERY soft (so tender a paintbrush leaves a mark!) and require full support to use effectively. She found the perfect tutorial for building the frame for these lenses on YouTube. Most folks use them to cook with sunlight off-grid. I may be the first person to use one for stop-motion filming effect.

The speaker stands holding it up were curb-lottery finds right out front of the house! But they had a key part missing... no problem...!

I had a small amount of very old Ice Resin leftover and cast the missing brake part using the wonderful Composimold product to create the mold. Kyelynn was amazed at what mold-making could do.

She stopped at a hardware store before the next visit and brought the missing hex nut that fit the new replacement part as well as right-sized nuts and bolt sets used to hang the framed lens on the stands. The frame stand is stable and fully adjustable for height and tilting so I'll be able to control the amount of distortion in each shot.

Scenes from the set room through the new lens.  These are straight from the phone
but the film scenes will have tons of digital editing and heavy vignetting at the edges.

Just beginning to get the way to work the lens, ways to whack the angles to stretch the edges of things. It's kind of like what I imagine a giant tilt-shift lens might be like. The effects changing depending on what distance the lens is placed, and the distance and angle the camera is positioned to the lens.

Close up gives a dreamlike effect, further away exaggerates the refraction as if looking through a water-filled bag. Lens flares can be controlled with black-out curtains on windows and wearing dark clothing while filming.

One may wonder why use magnifying lenses like this for stop motion. The answer is here and here. But in short, it's because I want this world called Halfland to be highly textural and detailed but seen as if through an antique lens with all its lovely distortions and blur. This project has to be slightly dreamlike rather than give edge-to-edge clarity.

I've been stumbling toward this all along. For example, this set of reference images of what I most wanted 1/2L to look like from a 2007 (!) blog posting: 


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Underground Stuntworm!


I need this? YES!
A little interstitial moment somewhere I'm sure. (Still TBD).
These sets will add a great deal of depth to the world of Halfland,
making it feel more dimensional and full.
I know that seeing the earth underground, as
I've made places to plant some trees this year,
really adds a lot to my experiences of that sort in this world.

On the side of the underground set I used leftover dirt cloth made back at the loft (perhaps for this purpose) to make ridges and groves for the silk-covered worm puppet to wriggle into and around.

The puppet itself is made on a plastic ball-jointed armature, covered with layers of tight fabric wrapping cinched with wire to enhance its many hourglass curves. The final layer was a ruched tube of silk that had been sun-faded outside for a long while. It just looked right so I used it. Coated it finally in a flexible iridescent medium that makes things appear to be wet, to contrast with the flat matte of the dirt.

I shot these test shots with a small fresnel magnifying lens to add the Halfland atmosphere and slight analog distortions I need to make it all feel dream-like and poetic. I found that if I draped myself in black felt, I could control the flares and glares.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Halfland's Velvet Underground

DONE! This small macro set was hanging out in my mind for YEARS!
I tried to omit it for time's sake but asked myself how I would make it with all the roots
and stones being born I'd been diligently collecting.
How could I make something feel as though it was buried?
See, that's the trick (or trouble), asking a question like that provides the answers!

Took a box (not hard to find these days) and started taping brown paper into crumpled rolls and taping them to the inside surfaces. Painted that with a nice brown/burnt umber acrylic, and then sauced around seeking a clean material to texture it with.

Coffee! Watered down glue and my magic matte medium slathered on and then heavily dusted with rich Colombian coffee that had long gone stale. I wondered too late whether handling ground coffee for days would be dangerous but Google wasn't saying.

I build up the set with real roots and ancient fossils, rusty metal bits, a coin, a shell from an ancient sea, and three stones-coming-conscious sculptures I'd made years ago tucked into the folds of textured paper.

I wanted this set for a single transitional shot of the macro-scale grass tufts above, panning downward into the earth's inky darkness. BOOM--next scene! From the Bug Party scene among the large grass blades panning to the black of the underground set, then up, right into the Writing Mouse's underground house set!

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Welcome, Kyelynn!

 The Amazing Kyelynn!

On the left, I caught this adorable image of her exploring the set for the first time.

I had only told her that the roof needed to stay up on its own, even as the walls
would be taken away for filming. Yeah, you know, no big issue. Right.

She had it all figured out by the very next visit!

Stay tuned for photos of how well her idea worked!

I've Got All The Answers!

Hi, Everyone! So much progress here. The lockdown situation has stripped away everything that could possibly have been in the way of my building Halfland and showed me what the hold-up was. It was just me.

Once the many hours for ballet classes were gone, leaving the house for normal errands were gone, and once I got every single tiny scrap in the house fully sorted and organized into new living systems, etc., then what?

The answer for me was a partner, the right partner for the task.

Once other priorities were more or less handled and completed after a year, Paul suggested I keep on the excellent builder helping me with garden projects to come inside and help me with stuck parts of the 1/2L build.

So for the time being The extraordinary Kyelynn comes once per week, as able. I ask her to help me with the aspect I am most stuck with. Kyelynn is most effectively deployed for the "most" stuck things. I could, of course, use her help on absolutely every little thing here every day, but that isn't practical for her life or my budget. So, once per week it is.

And the stuckest things are STUCK NO MORE!

Please stay tuned to this spot for frequent posts about all that has moved through!

The positive benefit of the "Kyelynn Effect" lasts beyond her weekly afternoon here. The stuck places cleared, I find that I ROLL like a frickin' manic steam roller through all the aspects related to that no-longer-stuck blockage. I actually have gotten things done in Halfland that I'd only been able to think about and collect material for years and years. It's so incredibly satisfying to experience.

When we were gardening one day, I was complaining to Kyelynn that I wished I could live for 1,000 years to get some of what I wanted to make done. She asked me about that amazed because she felt the opposite. She said she was fine having just her season on Earth. I'd never met anyone with that approach to life, it took me aback. No frustration over mortality?! No overwhelming constant sense of dread?! No defeat before beginning at the impossibility of one's desires vs. reality?! Got me thinking.

What if I relaxed and just got done what I could in a relaxed way? What if I shifted to intense gratitude for anything more than for everything? I've been a different person since then, honestly. Someone who gets everything fully done each day without stress like before.

I'm making several posts right now and scheduling them one per day to publish. For fans of Halfland, it should prove very interesting to watch things happen in next to real-time.

I needed a quicker method of creating posts going forward which I'm sampling with this one. I'm shooting progress shots of what happens with my phone, sorting those shots into albums on Google Photos, taking a screen grab of those albums as a mosaic, and posting that mosaic here to document each post. please tell me if this conveys the projects enough as you read the posts.

I think it'll be a more streamlined way to illustrate all the action. It means I won't be taking the images into PS to edit and carefully layout as I did before, so more raw/flawed now. And it means I lose some control over a visual narrative, the images are smaller for example, but I think more frequent posts make that worth dropping. But you tell me if this works or not as you see more posts. Can you see enough detail? Do you feel you are experiencing enough of how many thrills I'm having?

I chose The Answers for this post as I have finally received mine. Stay tuned!

Halfland developments happen continually as I go along.
And one of these is The Answers that grow out from the Answer Tree's wisdom.
In case I hadn't mentioned this before, your answers to questions asked appear, in intuitive script rather than in any language per se, written along the lines of the veins on the backs of the leaves.

A patina of gold emerges as the answer ripens and is ready for you to receive.
The fine edges of the leaf are gilded with gold... well, leaf! (Just caught that.)

Large scale and small scale (in middle) finished leaves waiting in display box until their film debut.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Farewell, Mother


I heard a few days ago that my mother and her husband were both found deceased in their home. They've been examined by the coroner and cremated. An investigation as to their causes of death is still pending. Family members have been told it doesn't appear to be foul play, Covid, or suicide, nothing appeared to be disturbed.

They were preparing a webinar for her husband's chiropractic practice to stream live on her birthday April 19. She sounded well on the phone to her youngest sister on the 17th but by the 19th no calls were returned. A welfare check was requested by my aunt for the couple who had newly settled in another state. Right now my guess is a carbon monoxide or gas leak inside their apartment. This place was likely nowhere nearly as fancy as their previous homes together. They chose to live as though they were wealthy. The right McMansions, the leased expensive cars, glamourous clothes, and rich food, etc.

My life with my mother was difficult. She gave me life in a hopeful way to escape the madness of her family when she was barely 19 years old, married to a young man, with his own traumatic childhood, things went violent straight away. He was horrifically tortured by his mother and father and knew no other way of parenting me. I was locked in closets to sleep and held underwater to stop me from crying. My cereal was thrown in my face in the highchair because I couldn't repeat back the alphabet at 6 months old.

Once out of the marriage and with sole custody and no visitation, feeling like she'd made the worst mistake of her life (spoiler: she had), she made the choice to live her life exactly as she wanted, as if I hadn't been born.

I was left alone as she went out and dated in the triple digits throughout the '60s and '70s, women's liberation, mod career girls, birth control. And when that didn't work, abortions. (I was one as well, just a little later than the others.)

Being left alone and criminally neglected without basic care (example: I never bathed nor brushed my teeth, was never shown to, so my hair always looked wet and kids on the street would ask why and tease me about it. I used to scrape thick plaque build-up off my big front buck teeth with an unbent paper clip and damaged my enamel until recently repaired) wasn't the worst of it. When we were together she would act out her mental-emotional issues in fits of uncontrolled wailing and anger toward me. Frothing at the mouth, tears, destroying, belittling, damaging. So you see, being left alone all those many hours with a little black and white tv was pretty nice indeed. I spent a lot of nights crying wishing for a loving family like the ones on that little black and white tv.

I raised myself. I didn't eat much or need any clothes or extras, I wasn't any trouble. I couldn't be. We had no love for each other, no connection on any level, no respect, yet the semblance of mother and daughter relationship carried on until 15 years ago or so. I continued to try to delight her, entertain her, impress her without realizing it could never actually happen. So strong is the human need for family dynamics, I simply persisted, making gifts, doing as she asked.

At about 8 years old she sent me to the local park pool to swim, walking alone in a tough city, wearing only my bathing suit and a shirt when a low rider car paced me near the park. It was filled with large dirty men and the hair on the back of my neck went up. I didn't know yet what sex was, but I knew what they were going to do to me and I feared that death. I quickly began waving frantically and shouting out the name "Steve, Steve!" pretending like I saw an invented man I knew in one of the houses that had toys left out front. At that, the car with the men sped off from the curb where they were just about to grab me and you know the rest. There was no one at that house I ran to. So if my act hadn't worked, well, no Halfland.

My mother always seemed to me to be a little disappointed I survived all the many times like that.

I tell you all this as the backdrop for my official memorial for my mother as follows:
(I will list here the five sole moments in our life together that meant something to me.)

1. She gave me four things that any one of which would be enough to have endured all the rest.

a. Life.

b. Paid for my Ballet Lessons from age 11 to 16.

c. My Husband, whom she introduced me to when I was 19.

d. My Religion, same as above.

2. Embroidery floss. One day she called me on her way home from work and asked if there was anything that I needed from the store. This was a first. Asking me anything about what I might like never had happened before or since. I mentioned that I could use a little more embroidery floss, thinking that it was small and inexpensive (25¢) so not too much to ask for. When she got home she tossed a little brown paper sack on the counter and watched as I looked inside it to find an array of those little floss skeins in wonderful colors. I think I cried over receiving that gift. The abundance of colors and so many when I'd only asked for one was overwhelmingly kind. I still sort all my colors with total joy.

3. For all the monstrousness throughout my family line (I haven't told you about it because you could never ever believe the story) in addition to being insane and diabolical, almost all of my people are also fine artists, largely painters. And one day, just one day in my life, my mother decided to get some proper painting supplies and drive us out to some woods to paint al fresco by a creek. As I write this, I'm now wondering if I was supposed to make it back. Still, at the time, it was nice she wanted to do something together, even if her intention wasn't that.

4. "The Book of Life". She wrote a song once when she was young and it was about me. I had somewhere a cassette tape of her singing it with a guitar and it was truly lovely and haunting. I memorized the lyrics and will post them on the underground but the tones and chords of it are what made it come alive.

Struggling to find a fifth thing. I guess if I'm being honest, there were moments where I hurt her as well. I was always judging how she conducted her life, I was much more the parent. She'd often make me her advisor and I learned quickly what things to say to people, a good skill to have. And I can see that there were fleeting moments when she tried to warm to me and her role as a working single mom. But by then it was too late. I knew the drill and to not trust her. How sad for both of us.

It was never easy to be her I imagine. Never being contented. Even after marrying her long-desired "wealthy doctor" she still sought the elusive undefinable successes that can quite never be enough once attained.

5. I guess number 5 is that even though she often tried to get rid of me in boarding schools (where I dreamt of food because no one told me I could ask for food) or with relatives (tossing me on a plane alone at 6 years old to live with another neglectful family so she could travel. On which I held my urine until I cried in pain because no one told me there was a bathroom on a transatlantic trip.) she did step up to provide me with food and shelter at least. Some don't get that.

So that's it. My official memorial for my mother. There'll be no ashes of her in my house, nor any knick-knacks. I want nothing from her ever again. I'll take those five things in my heart and wish her well on her soul's journey and let the rest of it all gradually diminish like the surf recedes from shore into the dark night sea.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Halfland's Final Form

 ©2021 Here's a mock-up of my intended final form for viewing finished Halfland animations.

It's an art object. A small version of the scenes play out inside the bottle for viewing. The scenes are brief and compose chapter series of the story. The small digital projector hidden inside the base can play for about 2 hours per charge. And any new series releases can be downloaded from a future Halfland site so your glass bottle theater stays up to date with the whole tale.

It's as though Halfland is real but taking place somewhere else. You can view it as if by dreaming, slightly removed, captured.

There. Now you know exactly what's inside my mind.

Hoping everyone is staying well.

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