Saturday, June 27, 2009

Special Studio Guest: DJ DYER


Artist and Animator, DJ Dyer, has been involved in her animation project Wanted for the past year. I've marveled at her keen model building skills and her mastery with fabrication detail and scale. I was delighted she'd be willing to make time for a visit to Halfland on her trip down to Los Angeles from British Columbia this week. She's got a ton of fun things planned for her solo expedition from the woods to the jungle.

When people are excited about Halfland, I get excited to have them stop by. It's usually a good reality check for me to make metal note of where I am in the production and where I want to go and why. I showed DJ the set and the finished props, showed and telled the types of puppet armatures and materials I knew of, ran down what was next for the landscape. I filled her in on the essential coolness of knowing Mike Brent. We even had a mini film festival where we screened and discussed Ron Cole's masterpiece, In the Fall of Gravity, and were awestruck by the incredibly animatable puppets Nick Hilligoss sent over for the Underwater scene in the film.

What surprised me was how much I loved DJ's main characters that she brought with her, Jed and his sidekick Tito. I'm not generally a teddy person but these were so soft and lovable I could see why they already have a huge following. (At one point, Jed had nearly 3,000 friends on a certain social network and was receiving bags of fan letters and gifts of handmade clothing!)

Another wonderful unexpected turn for me was the depth and substance of my conversation about art and animation with DJ. We are the same age and spoke about specific influences in our upbringing that may have prompted stop motion to be such a consuming passion for us. We discussed the difficulties of trying to explain to perhaps more practical people that our films are our art and don't require any measure of success to fulfill their purpose. How the Art World and the world of Art Education have nothing to offer us at this point. We both know What We Are Doing, even if it's wrong. I found the conversation to be extremely galvanizing and supportive.

What a nice surprise to find another kindred spirit and friend in this world. DJ, You are welcome here again anytime. And in the meantime... I very much support what you are doing from here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I Liked That Blanket

This looks like a comfy soft blanket strewn on the bay window set, ready for pulling up over your legs. Grab a pillow and settle in for a nap when the garden is finished. What it is though is an animatable firm metal sculpture inside stiffened wool, sewn into a draped shape, secured to the set with hot glue.

I took a perfectly good mohair blanket and cut out four squares of it and strips of fringe to finish. I used several layers of painted foil sandwiched inside two layers of the wool. The green color on the original blanket would never do as the cottage will contain colors in the warm family only. I used Brazilwood and yellow dye to stain and change the colors. I saturated the whole assembly with a lot of matte medium to tame the fringe so it won't move too easily during filming.

I also finished the table skirt on the kitchen table. I ended up trying to add some creative life to the cheap fabric I used by hand-painting dots. It made it only slightly better so I'm not loving it. But I think it's a small enough factor to not need more energy put into it. Miniature pleats on the skirt's panels were fixed with hot glue and wired at the bottom to make them animatable too.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dusting It Off

Notes follower, Rane*, gave so many creative, original ideas for the Halfland story I won't be able to add them all in the first two films! But I was able to make one of her suggestions for the cottage... Dust Bunnies!

When Paul left on a work and family visit 3 week trip last month I had a dreamy cartoon balloon over my head with a picture of me working the whole time on the set and making huge--"got the set done!"--progress. Instead what's happened is I took the entire time finishing two book projects that had to get to press (I will post photos of them to my new design site linked in the profile) and had a medical scare. So, instead of getting a ton done I got near NOTHING for Halfland done. I keep believing that I'll be able to, even now.

I promised Nick Hilligoss that I'd cut corners on building Halfland stuff wherever I could to conserve my time. I did twice, once in how I made these dust bunnies and once in choosing to use cheap quilt fabric for the kitchen table skirt instead of choosing exceptional fabric (a pleasure to do) and/or hand painting a pattern on plain. Corners--> cut!

I was going to clay-sculpt, plaster-mold, and hot-glue-cast a little bunny, paint it with glue and then add the collected real dust. Instead I crumpled clear cheap sealing tape into abstract bun bun shapes and finished with free range cat hair and clothes lint. (I did not have to look hard for this material, I just captured a few of my own wild dust bunnies.)

*In Rane's flurry of ideas for me, it came to light that her ability to fill in so much detail in my story in part has come about because she has many years in-the-trenches with her beautiful kids. Mothers have to rapid fire answer their children's questions all day, everyday. She's developed an uncanny creative imagination as a means of anticipating her kid's minds.

I think this is an extremely fascinating notion, that there's no better creative mind on earth for developing stories than that of a creative, caring, young mother and her little guys. I can't believe what she and her kids came up with! (To see more of them, please click through to the Flickr entry above)
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