Thursday, March 05, 2015

John Ikuma's Stop Motion Underground!

This is going to be a great post, thanks to John Ikuma. It's got everything; video YT content creator action, delicious show and tell reveals, dramatic suspenseful set-ups, and kaapow payoffs below. A Link Laden Lollapalooza...



The amazing and generous, writer/editor/animator, John Ikuma, dropped a new episode of Stop Motion Magazine's web series, In The Shadows of Light today!! I was stunned. He gave an entire episode to Halfland! Wildly fantastic to have! How great is it to see where things were 4.5 years ago and to know what's happened since he came to meet me at the loft, in September of 2010, to shoot some footage for his ambitious feature on LA's underground Stop Motion renaissance.

The day John came by and shot was the first time anyone had thought enough of what I was doing to give it a showcase like that. (I *think* I may have Tennessee Reed Norton to thank for tipping John off about 1/2L? If so, T. Reed, Thank you!) And after shooting that day, John said that what I was doing would be "worth a documentary all on its own" which was the first time anyone in the field had regarded the project as anything remarkable. His saying that was like a bomb going off in my being. It meant so much, especially at that time, and started me thinking more of what I was doing myself. It may have been one of the first moments in time that I began to have confidence in my abilities and ideas.

So, you see, it was a big deal here. And seeing the recording this much later for the first time I was amazed at how much of what I hold dear in terms of the project's philosophy and approach was worked out. I keep thinking of the points raised in John's film as 'brand new' thoughts all the time. Things like allegory, folktale, computers as personal creative tools, all being done within the means available, without concern for doing things correctly, etc.

And here, for those who may be interested, are how a few of the things discussed in the film were ultimately realized since then and a few of the people that came up as well:::

Nelson Lowry who taught me how to build molds and cast puppets and who encouraged me as Halfland was just beginning to be thought of.  He's now a very big deal in the Stop Motion world and lending his talents as Supervising Production Designer for LAIKA in Portland. Thank you for being my friend when I most needed it, Nelson.

Julie Taymor is the Great Artist who no less than saved my life with her creativity being showcased on the New York Times magazine's cover in 1992. I asked her, "Where can I go to learn to do what you do." She handed the phone to Micheal.  She gave me myself by demonstrating how to be oneself.

Michael Curry who was, in 1993, Julie's invaluable Technical and Creative Co-Director and an enormous influence and encouragement to me personally. (You may have been wowed by Michael's work for years without necessarily realizing it was his genius at work. Most recently the giant roaring lion Katy Perry rode at the big game's halftime (heh) show was recognizably his mastery at work. I knew it instantly!) Michael is the important person who invited me to "make my own project." after he'd relented to my constant pleads and allowed me inside my first-ever workshop for theatrical production (Oedipus) and unleashed the entire creative universe before my eyes. If it wasn't for Micheal and Julie, goodness knows how my life might have gone. Thank you, Michael.

More of Nick Hilligoss' fabulous stop motion puppetry work.

Mariah, one of the pretty little girls who want to help in Halfland.

Peggy Fussell actually making those 7-foot cardboard trees.

How the Mothman silk and wire wings mentioned were actually finished! Beautiful!


See how the mushroom cafe teacups were made and how they look close up.

Those fancy pants watch hands I talked about! And...

How they looked on the Time Frog's eye when they were finished!


How the main cottage porch shown was completed with the help of an architect!!

See what new bugs have RSVPzzzzzzd to the Bug Party since filming and how the finished party set looks close up including the band! Plus Lots more bug pupps. I LOVE making them.

Watch the Time Frog puppet in action on set!



















The entire project was moved nearly three years ago (!) into a more normal-sized apartment. It's been an adjustment and took a long time to re-jigger into, make new plans for how to handle the opening and closing shots, etc. I had to destroy a lot of the previous set pieces and sky in order to move due to the reduction in space and I became ill for nearly two years afterward, but by God, it is reborn and so am I. Thank you, God, I am well.

Halfland volunteer, artist Christine Kuper, helped me build the new sky in Halflnd's new (much smaller) workspace. She also helped me paint the night sky landscape onto half of the new paper backdrop once it was all finished. (She hasn't been by lately though.... She and Mano had their long-awaited first child just one year ago!! Praise be!)

The larger mouse puppet has been completely finished. And the small version of him, with the teensy pair of glasses, is seen lower right.

The main character of the series, Rana the Goat Woman puppet has been built and her costume is being finished over the next two days. It's a wow. Can't wait to show you.
Ready to begin shooting... Am now a subscriber to Adobe's Creative Cloud and therefore have the latest versions of After Effects and Premiere---Let's go! Thank you, John! xoxoooxoxo

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rana Photoshoot: Soup Tasting



A spoon carving prompted a preliminary camera test of Rana. I like how cinematic she looks. There's more surface texture on her face than I intended but it may be alright as it makes the whole movie looks for sure 'handmade' and slightly less in the creepy canyon.

She was harder to articulate than I had hoped she'd be. But I'm going with it. Pencils Down. Even if that means she can do less. I am thinking she'll be interesting to look at enough even if hardly moving.

Ended up using the spoon I'd made for her soup pot years ago as it seems I've lost the ability to carve a nice spoon. The new one is now in the prop soup (lower right). The new soup is super effective thanks to the gift Mike Brent gave the project of a jar of Museum Gel. I layered soup bits in about four layers of rolled out gel. The gel flattens itself out to a high gloss after about an hour or so and will nevah dry out. I tinted it by mixing ink into clear glue and using that as the penultimate layer.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Great "Motif":: Presenting the Finished Painting Chicken Puppet: by Guest Artist Deborah George

Clawing back from too long an absence to tell you that back in the summer I was delighted to receive another visit from artist and art instructor, Deborah George. She was triumphant over the task from the year prior I'd given her to produce the Painting Chicken puppet for the series.

It took her a year's worth of very hard work to construct. Apparently, placing each tiny natural feather by hand was a sisyphean nightmare to do, with lots of glue maddeningly sticking to fingers and tools.
But did it she did! And a better person I could not have chosen for this as Deborah is an avid avian expert, keeping Conure variety of birds as beloved pets for many years. She was even able to raid her own birds for molted feathers and hand ink them when her stock piles needed filling-in on Motif's fantastic duff.

The concept was a black and white chicken with a few outlined feathers colored-in. Deborah did an outstanding job and added the touches of specs and an artist's beret for his comb. She rigged the wings to curve around a palette and to hold his paintbrush for Motif's limited animation movements. He will be tied down to the set with wire and strong glue. His head swivels nicely.

When here, she also made his finishing props for the scene, a pod with pigments and extra mixing brushes, paints (obviously made with egg yolk binder) that sit across the bottoom of an easel holding hand stretch miniature canvas.

She also skillfully sketched the 1/2L landscape from the Chicken Painter's pov with its underpainting. He'll be seen painting plein air near the cottage for just a few moments as the camera features surprising vignettes of creatures doing interesting things. Well done, Deborah and thank you so much.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Constance Has Passed

Long time readers of the blog will remember one of Halfland's lovely volunteers Constance. She came over regularly for many months, largely building the most difficult forest sets of the project.

She labored hard with me to make the wonderful bamboo grove set for the mothman, erecting the large white cardboard 2D foreground forest from the trees drawn by Peggy, and helped me get the birch tree forest to stand, among other things. She was focused, hardworking, artistic, refined, sophisticated. A New Yorker, in other words, having transplanted herself to California about 15 years ago.

Constance always had a vision of women helping each other with large creative projects as a means to connect and share strengths, like old fashioned quilting bees. I think that's what brought her over to Halfland a lot, that there was a certain momentum of gathering taking place at the loft every Friday where she could gather in a creative circle and work happily towards something together.

But she came more than that, at least twice a week for a time. She came for the hard stuff. She came to do the bullwerk of difficult physical tasks. We had the satisfaction together of completing these and admiring how they looked. She helped make the moon. She made an exquisite butterfly, a work of art, one of the few things made by someone else I'm excited to feature in the film. She roughed in the mouse's house interior, pushing down that inertia for me so I could make it. Thank you for all your help, Constance.

After my move to this smaller place, during my own long walk back to health, Constance would check in on how things were going. I did the same around Easter. She said that she'd been dealing with some inexplicable weakness and permitted me to bring over some food she felt might be good.

Paul and I stopped by her home with the goods and were stunned by her appearance. She was skeletal. All we could say after not having seen her for months was, "What's going on??!?" She didn't know. Her husband rushed to to the ER later that very night in distress, her dam of pain finally burst. And so began weeks of the waning of her physical life, that culminated last month.

There was tremendous support of all kinds for she and Richard from that day on. With much organizing help by her friend Paula, friends, ministers, and relatives were able to keep a near constant watch over Constance. We all took our coordinated turn taking her for appointments, treatments, and later, when it seemed best, just to come and sit waiting for her passing.

In a way it was a shocking horror show of an experience. I could not get my head around how a human body could survive such profound loss of all its lovely flesh. How could she walk and speak when tumors were invading places within her that must have confused all internal function. How difficult for her mate to watch and to endure such an ordeal. And yet, he did much more than survive it. He triumphed over it all with love, rising to her every need with strength and purpose. He would give her everything he could until this path was fully walked.

There was Constance. Still refined, and funny, and philosophical about it all. Needing Richard. For herself she wished for a 'clean get away', to be clear and complete inside herself and with everyone she'd be leaving behind. She took the High Road out from my point of view, demonstrating the noblest of perspectives during these declining months.

On my last visit she would forget to take a breath every so often. I'd remind her and she'd come alive with a gasp and expressively whisper, "Thank you!" Even then, some lucid aspect of her consciousness would ask out loud, "How do I get out of this?" Without obvious alternative, only a suggestion to follow the Light sounded hopeful.

If there is, as I believe, some sort of continuation after this physical experience, then I'm sure Constance's Soul is having fun somewhere, making silly puns with wordplay, and creating wondrous things. Maybe, if she wants to, building forests of the lasting kind.


Friday, August 29, 2014

I Thought I Made 1/2L Up

I have no idea whether this is really real, whatever that is, or Photoshopped or what but the idea is utterly Halflandian and striking. Tumblr The Lifting of the Veil reports that roots of trees in North Carolina have taken shape as emerging human forms. Nature beats me to it everytime.

Anthropomorphic Tree
Anthropomorphism which is the recognition of human-like characteristics or form in animals, plants or non-living things. This tree, which can be found in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, has roots which have taken a human-like form.

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