Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Excessive Life Drawing Dumpage

I had an enjoyable time in Life Drawing this year; I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that we were essentially given free reign in regards to exploring mediums (media?) and styles. That relieved considerable pressure from producing ultra-finessed, polished, 'pretty' drawings, and I guess as you can see, I sorta thrived in straying from that course and enjoyed some experimentation. The above three were drawn with my right (i.e. non-dominant) hand, which meant less control but more vitality and expression in the line-work I think. Kudos to Tim McCormick in encouraging the search for individual style. Enjoy!

p.s. these last two made it up in the hallway display case, at which point I can now promptly cross 'get life-drawings in the display case' off my '100 Things To Do Before I Die' list...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sets and Such

I'm afraid this post is neither particularly 'soon' (as was promised in the previous post), nor does it contain photographic evidence of finished puppets, and for that I am truly sorry. They're coming. - (the pictures, I mean. The puppets themselves, sans facial features and Grandma's slippers, are done).

Currrently I'm working on said facial features - I'm making their mouths and eyebrows from sewing thread shaped into place with no-fray (fray-check, whichever you like) that dries clear and will then be stuck on the puppets with .. something yet-to-be-determined. (The slightest bit of gluestick? That might leave gunky residue, or a build-up to such. Vaseline? If it doesn't end up looking too shiny, I might go this route). I made a quick test head though, so I'll be trying said options out. As for eyeballs, I'll be testing paper ones tomorrow, and if that doesn't fly, probably thin pieces of clay.

I'm also pleased to announce that my sets, with the exception of painted 'sky' backgrounds (views from windows) were finished as of Tuesday. I was hoping to get them all done the day before, but a day off is fine, and they were finished within a little over a week anyways.

(A little peek at the process. I start by referring to my storyboards, using cardboard stand-ins for set sizes so I know how much of the actual building-materials I'll need. Once I'm satisfied with the framing and have worked out the basic logistics/blocking, I move on to the wonders of gator-board (foam sandwiched between cardboard = very sturdy) and acrylic paint, followed by 'furniture', set details and whatnot painted with goauche - I think I spelled that correctly - on watercolour paper).

It looks like a meagre amount for 10 or so sets, but in some cases I used both sides of the set boards, and there were varied amounts of work required for each one. I had a little trouble determining colours, since I'm trying to keep the atmosphere 'warm' throughout the film and I like pastels, but I also made my characters' costumes rather pastel-y too, hence it took some time making sure they don't blend in too much. Lighting will help out with that too I think.

Anyways, I'm going to get some sleep: I've been doing a profound amount of misplacing things/ knocking stuff over lately, and it's getting kinda annoying.

Monday, November 23, 2009

On Costume-Making

This weekend I made the majority (save for two shirts) of my puppets' costumes; I embarked on this little endeavour mid-Saturday-morning and finished the last one up earlier today.

I'll be honest - working on these wasn't exactly a piece of cake; in fact I think they've been the most fiddlesome things I've made to date. There are a number of potentially vexatious variables when it comes to costume-making; these include working with a sewing machine (that's a separate world unto itself), materials and their properties (is the material slippery? bulky? prone to fraying?), materials and their relationship with sewing machines (the aforementioned properties and how they run through the feed-dogs and needle - if the material is a knit, it can sometimes get 'flattened' out by being run under the needle, which causes stretching and subsequent curling of the fabric edges you're working on) - not to mention everything is on the miniscule side (is there enough seam allowance? will the leg and arm holes be wide enough for the hands and feet to fit through? will you be able to turn it inside-out once you've got it all sewn?) and the list goes on. So if you ever see (or hear) me while I'm sewing, it's highly likely I'm not in the pleasantest of moods.

That all aside though, I really do enjoy this part of the creative process, even as an ends in itself. I've got a couple years of experience making barbie-doll outfits, and I'll admit I still have fun doing that as a hobby. (Nerdy, yes, but obviously it's paid off). The main differences here were that A) I was making something that had to be somewhat functional (the characters have to be able to move in their clothing), B) it involved hand-stitching (usually on an inside seam) the clothes to the puppets, so less accessibility in fitting and tailoring and final tweaking, and C) the puppets aren't solid chunks of plastic, so it's harder to fit the clothing shape to a foam body that has alot of leeway in its form/volume.

But overall I'm ridiculously pleased with the results.

As for my process, I'm not sure what could all be said on that. Alot of it is simply a combination of intuition and experience; I figure out the rough sizes things need to be as I go, make mistakes, re-do portions, eyeball it some more, try it on the puppet, etc., and it differs with every piece. The best (and most blatantly obvious) advice I can give is to practice.

p.s. yes, I'll post photos of the final results soon. After that I might drop off the face of blogging for a while until my sets are done.

p.s.s. I watched 'Mary and Max' last night and it was everything I'd hoped it would be.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Labels and Definitions

I received an interesting comment on my film yesterday which, despite its vagueness, I believe purported that it could be made in live-action and thereby raised the question as to ‘why do something in animation if it can be done in live-action?’

I agree with Marshall McLuhan in that the medium should fit [and is an integral part of] the message, but I do not believe the medium should be dictated by it per se, much less the message by the medium. And so while the question holds some validity in that it asks the film-maker to analyze why they have adapted a certain media and how they can use it to the best of its abilities in bringing about their message, it simultaneously imposes some severe limitations by underestimating the power of animation. Saturday morning cartoons and gabbering animals have their place, but I agree with instructors’ sentiments when they say there is an enormous amount of unexplored potential within our medium. Approaching subject matter in a new or unusual method allows the viewer to dwell on something in a different ‘setting’ or frame of mind; to poke and prod at it and flip it over a couple times.

Do we limit ourselves when we define things, label them, tell them what they ought and ought not be?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A little more of my process:

My puppet heads were made of a base of tinfoil and a piece of aluminum brass-stock (to fit onto a slightly thinner stock on the end of their neck) encased in a thin layer of plumber's epoxy, with super-sculpey on top to form the actual features. (The eyes were partially pre-baked white sculpey that I embedded into the head after sculpting a basic facial shape and before the final baking).

Pre-plannimg: I tend to dislike being overly meticulous when it comes to planning out the sizes and lengths for puppets; to some extent I prefer eye-balling it and keeping the process kinda organic. HOWever, while this worked out ok with my last puppet (see January '09 posts) - as it was more or less a first-time experiment and not carrying the weight of a film on its shoulders - the same didn't quite happen here. My first batch of arms came out a bit on the long side, and looked like they belonged more to characters who climb Empire State buildings for down-time as opposed to humanoids of the Dutch persuasion. So yes, contrary to previous ignorance, adaquete planning is essential - especially when you have to use a puppet in a variety of scenes and circumstances as opposed to a number of unrelated excercises.

(The beginnings of the skeletal armatures; plumber's epoxy, 1/16th armature wire, and metal nuts for tie-downs on the feet).

(Liquid-latexed hands, ready to be inserted into the puppets). p.s. sorry the image is sideways, but you get the picture.

Adding styrofoam for volume, to be trimmed down and rubber-cemented to the armatures for stability.

I've finished painting the heads as of the weekend? or earlier this week; I imagine I'll post a picture when I've got their costumes sewn. I am also toying with the idea of using sewing thread for facial features (mouths, eyebrows and whatnot); I need to test this out yet (gluing different pieces into varying pre-made positions and then attatching them to the faces somehow? or using one or two pieces and animating them - though how that bit might work is yet to be determined). I also have to figure out eyelids (clay, or possibly silicone parts from molds?) and pupils (clay, paper, plastic?). Any suggestions or insights welcomed!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What you're seeing here is a number of puppet arms in the process of being liquid-latexed (to create 'skin'), after which they are dipped for a final smooth coat or two in the latex, fitted with square brass stock on the ends, and inserted into the puppets with the aid of contact cement.

Below is my studio workspace within Sheridan's stop-motion studio:

The paper cut-outs on the table will be used for puppet-standins when it comes to set construction and figuring out sizes, proportions, staging, blocking; essentially discerning where and how the puppet will 'fit' in its world.

On the right wall I have posted my storyboards to guide me in determining game-planning for production and pre-production. This way I can easily refer to them while I am figuring out puppet, prop, and set relations, as well as eventually prioritizing and keeping track of which shots have been completed/ need special attention etc.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Things I Learned This Week:

1. Prioritization.
2. Efficiency
3. Precision.

It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyways) that these three things are rather important when it comes to making a stop-motion film or any work of creation in general.

Prioritization ensures that you're going to be efficient with your time and work because you've realized some things don't honestly matter as much as you initially thought, and precision also influences efficiency because it saves you from having to redo parts of the process that could have been avoided had things been planned in a little more detail. All things I'm learning as I'm starting off on my fourth-year film, and particularly essential to the stop-motion process (the medium I'm making my film in) as it's one that requires alot of efficiency in its construction and execution.

That said, things are otherwise progressing fairly smoothly; all the puppet armatures are made and ready to be bulked up with foam; two more heads need final painting (hair), and, with the help of a wonderful 3rd-year assisant* who goes by the name of Jen Bamford (http://jennygreenteeth.blogspot.com/), all the puppet arms were finished today. Pictures to come soon!

*(This assistance is also pleasant because as much as singing, trying various foreign accents and repeating movie quotes to one's self is entertaining, it gets a little boring after awhile and conversation with more than just one's self is nice).

Friday, November 6, 2009

life, abundantly

Couple'a pieces from life-drawing and extra-life

Monday, October 26, 2009

For those not in The Know, this is a board of sequential story panels (my film in its entirety at one point) that helped me organize the story into a format that gave a sense of visual flow, structure, and continuity. Before this stage they were a number of panels crambed onto 8x11 pages, and before that, scribbles in my sketchbook. Now they've moved on to leica format: timed out to serve as a base for the final product, where I've continued to analyze the story from a new angle again.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

when you get older...

.. you do strange things.

I'll probably post a bit more film-progress-related stuff soon. This upcoming week is break week; I'm hoping to a) finish final tweaks on my leica reel and b) take a bite into the puppet-making aspects and set-planning of my film. Oh, and c) write an essay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ode to Mel

...who was wonderfully wed on Saturday and is (I suspect) contentedly reclining on a beach somewhere. We are two very different individuals - and we've had our share of comraderie and squabbles - but in the last couple of years I've come to appreciate those dissimilarities and the ways in which God has blessed her as an individual; particularly her warmth, empathy, and fun spirit.

On other notes, I was part of a tour of Sheridan's new Advanced Special Effects Makeup, Prosthetics & Props program this morning, and it was wicked awesome.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

...you can probably smell me comin'.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Technically I should be reading some Bruno Schulz prose right now but I was thinking about a conversation I had with Michelle the other day about sketchbooks, and the wonderfully tangible quality of life they contain. I was perusing a couple of my old sketchbooks from high school recently and couldn't help but notice the very acute memories they recall.
Little contexts and circumstances and sentiments; all processes of the journey.
I hope to get back into that soon.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

clarifying, clarifying
whittling down the bones.

Friday, September 18, 2009


All Kafka tributes aside, this is more or less an experimentation in set designs.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two of the five heads made thus far, and fabric samples I've been picking up here and there (feat. the beginnings of the scarf; my beppe taught me how to knit this summer:P

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

a taste of things to come

This being a story/character relationship sketch of sorts, my apologies for the cruddy scanning qualities. I hope to upload photos of the sculpted heads in the near future.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Roadtrip

Background: acrylic on plexi-glass, animation: acrylic on acetate.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I made some much-needed pencil-cases today, with vintage fabrics and a bit of textilean embellishment.

Friday, July 24, 2009

In Which Mr. Garlic-head Goes To The Drawer (And Picks Out A Smile)

Below are two short little stop-mo pieces I did towards the end of my co-op involving Mr. Garlic-head and a bit of set/prop making. The first one I am generally satisfied with (a minor exception being the drawer-opening bit, which needs a drastically longer amount of read-time), the second a bit less so, as I should have made the puppet *look* at the phone before picking it up and replacing it (the lack of such rendering both occasions as a bit odd-looking in regards to interaction), more defined and legible poses throughout, and a smoother, slower sitting-up at the end - it's a bit abrupt. The piece as a whole is a bit jumbled, but that's not to say there aren't elements that I like, such as the slanted lighting, the leg-swinging action, and the happy accident of the smile 'thinning out' at the end to reveal the character's natural emotion underneath (which I realized is difficult to see here).
...'t's what practice is for though, and learning to pinpoint areas in need of improvement, generally does lead to improvement in the future.

And a still from shooting:

The dresser is carved from pink styrofoam, the chair made from scrap wood, the backwall from cardboard (incidentally the boards are running vertically instead of horizontally), wall plaster, creative-memories-type paper and more pink styrofoam for the trim, and the floor being a placemat find from our good friend Value Village.

Friday, July 10, 2009

sliced bread's got nothin' on this

Ah, stop motion. Delving into this little niche of the animation world has in some ways drawn me back to memories of those creative aspects of my childhood. The 'Cutting-and-Gluing Box'* - brimming with popsicle sticks, styrofoam meat trays, toilet paper rolls and leftover sewing scraps comes to mind (as do the flimsy cardboard creations Mel and I would ambitiously whip up), plus an interest in miniature doll-housing, mold-making and sewing - now coupled with animation, design and story-telling (a writing aspect) to boot ... what could be better?

*this was only slightly differentiated from the recycle box, and that was our next best option (though sometimes said ambitious creations would mysteriously end up there too).

Friday, July 3, 2009

monsieur garlic-head

Just a little piece I did a couple weeks ago. It felt a bit fast at 15 fps so I slowed it down to 12 and that seems to work better.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Hey all, Hogwild (Sheridan third-year group film of which I was a part) is up and running online now, you can check it out here:


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

ooh yeah, Experimentalism. I'm sure this deserves some sort of oblique title such as 'Finality No. 5' or a vague, foreign term only 2% of the population is aware of, but I'll spare everyone the effort and leave it as is. Essentially this is a cicada shell blowing around under an old overhead projector.
The video quality's a little less than stellar, for which I apologize as it diminishes said cicada in all its miniscule majesty and its random jittering looks more like cruddy pixelation (of which there is some). Hence some of the texture (actually a lot) and the grainy-ness gets lost. Will try to get a better upload. Til then..

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

TFS, my friends; TFS.

Well the first chunk of stop-motion my co-op (comprising of 'True Family Story' Production Phase With Chris Walsh) was completed as of yesterday. It was quite wonderful (if not downright inspiring) to contribute to the creation of something personally satisfying and rewarding on all accounts, vested with genuine interest and care, and quality to boot. You can get your fill of behind-the-scenes and production documentation over here for the next little while: http://walsh-o-matic.blogspot.com/

..commencing Post now.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


TTC drawing escapades, I think I've got a couple more somewhere.
Couple'a early concept pieces for Hogwild, pen and watercolo[u]r.