Jenny Greenteeth, Where Are You?

The year winds to a close, and my mind drifts again and again to the Jenny film. I've spent the last year learning the basics of stop-motion, or some of them anyway :) enough that I am confident now to begin my film.....really begin.....like, filming by the end of 2007....let's recap a little before talking plans.
The Jenny Greenteeth film grew out of my angst over Hurricane Katrina, which struck August 28 2005....in the film, a little girl named Nola, wandering in the woods, stumbles upon a black lake and pier, a broken down fishing community of sorts....she accidentally awakens a witch deep in an underwater cave, and is dragged down to the murky depths for dinner....the film is packed with Katrina metaphor, from Jenny's design and spinning eye to the rotting architecture of the sets.
I am 75% finished my sculpt of Jenny, and have about two months of shelf-life left on my foam latex supply, so hopefully there will be a workable Jenny puppet in the near future....but right now my goal is storyboarding....I have dozens of scenes, sketches, images, ideas, but have yet to really stitch them together into a solid story...I have not completely planned out the action on the pier, for example, and that has to be done soon, before I can even begin to design the pier, much less build it...basically I have the beats, I just need to fill in the inbetweens....

Some new bits.....the area where the pier meets land will be black, a radiating patch of dead grass and earth, an image from Lovecraft....storm clouds will gather slowly as the action unfolds, probably a series of painted backdrops, translucent and backlit, glowy.....there will be scattered rocks and piles of rounded stones, and as Nola reaches for one to skip across the lake, we see that it is actually a skull....

Look forward to more regular blogging, cause things are about to heat up...


Flashback: 1984

I was digging through old photo albums looking for pics to use for the last of my family's portrait-gifts, and I came across this little gem....these albums are so much more important to me now, as Katrina survivors.....I imagine there aren't many photo albums left in the city...
I used to love Gumby......still do, though I haven't seen any in quite some time...I even liked Prickle and Goo and the little dog that said ......'Nope!'...........but the oldies were my favorite....here I am, age 7.......


An Update.....

I apologize for the lack of posts/updates/progress, but holiday madness is upon me :) I don't know how I thought I would have time to create and animate the Tree Beast sequence this month, December is always busy for me creatively as I make most of my gifts...this year I'm doing watercolor portraits for the family....two down, six to go....then I've got to edit together the family footage for the year, I am the resident cameraman, and so have video every year of the birthdays, barbeques, etc, which I edit together for Christmas viewing....I usually edit as I go throughout the year, but with stop-mo taking up my life for the last year, now I'm swamped.....so its safe to say there won't be too much going on here until after Christmas....but here are some random thoughts, some things on my mind, and some things....that have not yet come to pass :)

*I originally intended to hustle and complete the entire Tree Beast sequence for the Dec 30 StopMoShorts competition, but I've got a lot of kinks to work out (set floor material, puny man rigs, and puny men) so unfortunately, its not gonna happen....even more unfortunately, I'm all hyped to go Jenny crazy for 2007, so I can't say when we'll be seeing more of the Beast....I give you my word that the 'lumberjack' film will be made....

*I've been reading Camille Paglia's "Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson"....Darkstrider sent it to me a month or so ago, after an email conversation about decadent art, nature, and the female presence in my work.....he thought I'd enjoy it.......he was right.....Its taking me awhile to get through because I keep returning to and rereading and absorbing chapter 1......here's some of my favorite bits, you'll understand why:

"Walking in nature, we see, identify, name, recognize. We say that nature is beautiful. But what is pretty in nature is confined to the thin skin of the globe upon which we huddle. Scratch that skin and nature's daemonic ugliness will erupt...Civilized man conceals from himself the extent of his subordination to nature. But let nature shrug, and all is in ruin."

Reading her views have helped me to understand my life right now, and more importantly, my work...for the first time in my life I feel like I could sit down and write an Artist's Statement, which is something that has been mildly weighing on me since way back in my college days....in fact, I hope to post it after I finish the book...thanks for that Mike :)

*I've been rethinking some of the Jenny film, processing new information...well, tweaking actually....for instance, instead of having Jenny simply chase Nola down the pier, she's actually going to destroy the pier in her fury and hunger, basically ripping it apart as she goes, knocking out support beams, trapping Nola at the end of the pier, away from land, stranded in the black ether on a bit of pier-raft :)
I've also decided....no robot.....remember this conversation? Jenny=Katrina....every aspect of the film should be meaningful.....more coming very soon....

*The year in review.....I've got a lot to say here, a post that'll probably come at the end of the year, but in short.....2006 has been, creatively, one of the richest and most productive years of my life.....


A New Painting

I started working on a new painting late last week. I've come back to it three or four times, adding new layers, the newest being the white.....not sure where I'm going with this, but then, I never really am....


Tree Monster Tree Props

I haven't gotten too much done in the last week, with Thanksgiving and then a weekend stomach virus for my wife, ugh.....but I have done a little :)

I've been branch hunting, these in the pic came from my mother-in-laws yard on Thanksgiving day....my favorite is the small one in the middle, its hole looks so much like Woody's....I want Woody to look natural to his environment so here's my plan for the other trees on set....I've made a few liquid rubber latex skins using the tree monster mold, made copies of the root system from the sculpt to paste onto real branches that I pick up in the yard....with a little clay for spackle and a new paintjob, they should work out nicely.....
I'm also starting to think about magnets for my tiny lumberjacks, so that I don't have to work a tie-down into their teensy feet.....I think it might just work with such small puppets.....not that I've started making them yet :)


Tree Beast Test Clip

Beast Piece QT on Vimeo

....trying vimeo this time, like Shelley uses in Halfland :)

It Ain't Easy Bein' Green

Close-ups as ordered :) Thanks to everyone for the kudos and comments and encouragement....I've added a layer of green (too much I think), and a little dark blue in the shadowy areas, and now I think I want to go over the whole thing with an even lighter grey in some places.....still need to figure in and figure out vines and teeth (or maybe not?) and tiny men but I might do some animation tests later today anyway...I made some little makeshift armature-wire man-legs to give you all a sense of scale.....


EDIT: my first test clip is done and posted at vimeo, I'm going to try to embed it later but for now here's the link :D http://www.vimeo.com/clip:118313


Tree Beast Paintjob, In Progress

I spent some time tonight paintin' up the Beast....I mixed Prosaide and acrylic paint, about 50/50...started with a thin layer of medium brown....

I want to thank my wife Julianna for being my archival shutterbug through this whole process :)

Next I hit all of the crevices and nooks and crannies with a dark brown, almost black, and then drybrushed the whole thing with a light grey....its coming along but still not quite where I want it....gonna add some green tomorrow, dust him, and then maybe do an animation test or two :D


Twiggy Plugs for the Tree Monster

A quick post about tonight's progress.....liquid rubber latex works fantastically on the foam latex, I used it to patch a few of the air-bubble-pores and to implant the Beast's twiggy hair plugs....I'm still working out the best way to do the teeth....as of now he is primed and ready to be painted....


My First Foam Latex Run

I still can't believe it actually happened :D

It didnt rain......the foam didnt gel in the bowl....the toaster oven didnt fizzle out....objects weren't ruined by flying foamy spray...it all went well......some might say, too well :)

The day started perfectly, beautiful weather, sunny but cool.....I got out of bed and first thing, signed online and checked the humidity and temp in my zip code.....actually, no, that's wrong....the FIRST thing I did was watch Regis & Kelly, to see a few holiday puppets in action, armatured by buddy Sven Bonnichsen at the Scarlet Letters, you can watch the clip here...THEN I checked the weather online....perfect conditions.....I hadn't gotten a chance to set up, so I cleaned my area of the kitchen by the slidey glass doors, got all my supplies ready, set up the fan & scale & mixer & foamcore splash guard, and headed outside to set up the toaster oven....unfortunately for me, during the summer months, wasps had nested in the frame of the door all along the track at the top....no problem, I fetched my bottle of Raid and went to war.....but you know what really sucks?......when your bottle of Raid runs out halfway through extermination of a colony of wasps...they don't like being exterminated, it turns out...........I ran......went to the store for a new can and then showed them who's boss :P then I had to hose down and scrub the door to get rid of the poison, and knock down the nests.....after my wife got home from work, we had dinner and Smallville, and THEN I got to work....The day started at 54* with 54% humidity.....almost ideal.....but by the time I got to mixing, it was 49* with 74% humidity......from these numbers, I ultimately decided to go with the exact measurements laid out by GM.....normally you would offset the cold temp by adding more gelling agent, and you would offset the high humidity by using less gelling agent, so I figured they would balance out....

Single Batch = 150g latex base, 30g foaming agent, 15g curing agent, & 14g gelling agent

Mixed in a Sunbeam Mixmaster, small bowl (I had virtually no splatter!!), following the guidelines for a 'normal temperature' room (68-74*)...again, I did a little averaging with the temp as well.....the thermostat in my house was set at 75*, but the table/splashguard/fan was set up in the back doorway with the door open, so I figured the actual temp would be a little cooler....

Here's my schedule:
9:33pm, speed 1, 1 minute--I constantly scraped the side of the bowl with my rubber spatula, throughout the entire mixing process
9:34pm, speed 6, 6 minutes--here you'll start to notice the foam fluffing up
9:40pm, speed 4, 3 minutes
9:43pm, speed 1, 3 minutes
9:46pm, speed 1, 1.5 minutes, added gelling agent slowly, drizzling around the edge of the bowl

Then I quickly brushed the foam latex batter into the mold halves (which had already been coated with mold release) and poured enough into each half to fill it.....these minutes were extremely tense, I was expecting gelled foam at any second but it didn't happen....I smooshed the halves of the mold together, spewing foam out the sides and everywhere, making a mess....I put way too much foam in there :)

I had to wire the halves together because I forgot to get me some mold-straps, then I let it sit to gel, which happened almost immediatley.....I'm telling you, if I had dallied for another 30 seconds somewhere, it would've been a failure....I let it sit for about 10 minutes anyway, peeled off the excess that had dripped around the mold, and waited until the foam left in the bowl was completely gelled....uncured (uncooked) gelled foam has a strange consistency, foam without the springiness....dents stay pushed in....
I went outside and turned on the toaster oven, set to 200*....recommended temp is around 185* but since the oven was outside in 50* weather, I turned it up a little and cooked it a little longer.....Tree Monster went into the oven at 10:00 and cooked until 1:00 am....

More coming soon, I'm eager to go seam :)

Foam Test #1......Success!!

Mmmmmm.....concrete sandwich with latex spread.....my favorite bedtime snack........

The day was beautiful, perfect for foamy tests.....after a prolonged battle with wasps, I finally got everything set up and started mixing at about 9pm....and now.........I've got a somewhat-seamed, fully cast, foam latex Tree Monster puppet!!!!!....far from a perfect casting, there are small air bubbles in the surface, but I'm fairly certain they will be nigh-invisible after the paintjob.....I'm very very excited :D Can't wait to get home from work tomorrow evening and continue seaming, can't wait to paint, can't wait to animate, can't wait to post more......til tomorrow, when I can be more in depth, here are a few pics.....


In the pic above you can see the effect of the mold wall, which created a very thin membrane around the puppet, making for very easy seaming.....more coming soon :)


Tree Mold, completed

After resculpting bits of the beast, I rolled out a few pieces of water clay, about 1/4" thick, and laid them onto the mold around the sculpt....then I trimmed the edge of this new clay bed around the sculpt, creating a trench about 1/4" wide....I also trimmed around the mold's keys...the rest of the clay will stay in the mold while the second half sets, ultimately creating open empty space for the foam latex overflow as I squish the two halves together in casting....I sprayed the whole thing down with Clearcoat, rubbed vaseline on any exposed ultracal, and repeated the drizzle-burlap-superlayer process...once the new half set, about two hours later, I pressed a sculpting tool into one of the squishy clay sides, digging out enough water clay to pry open the mold....Woody's 'root system' made it difficult to separate the halves, and the sculpt did not survive the mold-making process, but they usually don't.....the dark green you see in the pic is the floral tape I wrapped the armature with, to keep it clean during sculpting....next, I carefully peeled out as much of the dead sculpt as I could, and then even more carefully went at it with my sculpting tools, digging tiny shreds of clay out of the barky texturing....using a soft brush and a little alcohol, I washed away the residual clay....I noticed pretty quickly that the second half, covering the back of the sculpt, has several air bubbles, a few right on the surface of the sculpt...I may try to fill them or I may just let him have a few worts or I may do surgery after casting, not sure yet....you can see a couple of the bubbles clearly by the 'Hellboy' swirly on the elbow in the pic below, and you can see what I had to deal with as far as clay-cleanup....

I did a little armature surgery, trimming the nubs that remained from the two limbs I decided to sever early in the sculpting process, and also adding a tie-down rectally....I just blobbed on a bit more epoxy clay, I had plenty of extra space in the root area....tomorrow I clean up and set up for Foamy Thursday....

...and I'm realizing that.....I am a control freak...........yes, its true.....I never would have guessed......I'm not concerned with seaming, or painting the puppet, or animating it....but I'm fairly stressed about the casting, the mixing of the foamy batter which can be so easily influenced by weather/humidity.....things I have no control over.....I think this might be another little side effect of the storm, a little personality shift towards obsessive-compulsiveness?


Tree Monster Molded, the long version Part 2

As the first layers set up, I mixed another small soupy batch, drenched a piece of burlap with it, then spread the shloopy burlap on top of the developing mold....this will help give the mold added strength, which it needs....plus I'm a butterfingers, should I drop it and it break, the burlap layer will sort of help keep it intact or at least partially fixable....I drizzled more ultracal on top of the burlap layer, making sure to press it down and smooth it out enough to eliminate airbubbles...when this layer started to set, I mixed up an ultrathick soft-clay-like wad of ultracal to create the 'super layer'....then I evened up the sides, smoothed the top a bit, and let it sit...so far I've liked this method of buildup, though I had a little trouble building up a flat surface on top of the mold...Nick H molds his puppets in a standing position, which I'd like to try...I have to say, though, that I think I prefer working within a box, which would've been built around the sculpt after the water clay wall, using wood or bricks or cinder blocks...makes it much easier to build up the sides of the top of the mold, create an even flat surface across the top instead of a curved surface, which is what I have.....it sits flat, doesn't rock, so it isnt a problem, just doesn't look as nice and probably isn't as strong....ok, first side is done, let it set about 2 hours (occasionally and gleefully feeling the heat emanating from it as it set up, like an oven baking holiday cookies :)....once hard, I peeled the whole thing off of the wood plank, flipped it over, and began to carefully remove the water clay wall to reveal the back half of the sculpt, which I noticed was a bit flattened from laying down...after removing the water clay, I cleaned the residue off of the mold and sculpt using a soft brush and a little water, and then resculpted and touched up the back of the Tree Beast....still more to come :)
......and...hey.............pssssssssst.......come 'ere......got a secret..........Thursday, this thursday, should be my first day of foam latex trials and tribulations :D :o 8O


Tree Monster Molded, the long version Part 1

When I decided I was happy with the sculpt, just after doing the lighting tests, I removed the twiggy bits, and put the Tree Monster in the fridge for a few hours....I measured the toaster oven again, and discovered that my original measurements were off, I hadn't considered that the back of the oven is curved, and I had measured its widest depth....which meant I had to take about an inch off of the imagined mold, which is how I ended up with such a small amount of space around the sculpt's edges...once I had the measurements down, I drew a box on a plank of wood to represent the maximum dimensions of the mold, so I wouldn't make it too large for the oven....then I got to work on the clay wall...I untie-downed the beast, laid him on his back, replaced the tie-down screws (6-32) to register the armature in the mold, and started building up the white clay, water-based stuff that is pleasantly soft and squishy and cold....very nice...I built it up about halfway, trying to go with the flow of the sculpt....the seams will sort of follow the shape of the roots, for example, and not just cut straight across the top of the 'foot'...after I cleaned up the water clay a bit, pressing it between 'fingers' and whatnot, I smoothed it out and added two small keys to register the mold....I sprayed the whole thing down with a nice layer of clearcoat, then I mixed up my first batch of Utracal, to about the consistency of pea soup...I used a soft brush to drizzle the mixture over the sculpt, lightly brushing in places to make sure the crevices were being filled...I continually drop-tapped the wood plank to make air bubbles rise...as the surface began to set, I would drizzle another layer, gradually thicker as the ultracal in the bowl began to harden....more coming soon :)


Tree Monster Molded!! (the short version)

I call this the short version 'cause I've got to get to bed soon, I've been working on the monster all day and had to post something...but watch for a longer more detailed post in a few days...In short it went well, this is my first time using Ultracal which was nice to work with, also my first keyed and registered mold, mostly professional, following techniques used by Kathi in that great dvd I mentioned a month or so ago...I 've got a lot of cleaning to do with the mold, ole Woody came out in shreds when the mold came apart and there's tiny bits of clay in all those lovely barky textured crevices....gonna clean 'er up and post again soon, a full report, complete with mold size-issues and bubbles....but for now.........

...there's only about a half inch of Ultracal from the end of the longest root to the edge of the mold, which makes me nervous, but I had to restrict the size due to the dimensions of my toaster oven...hopefully, with the foam-overflow areas in the mold to release some pressure, there won't be a problem.....

....notice the yellow clay remnants of the Tree Monster strewn about the tabletop....ugh.....Jenny 2's mold-removal mini-death is gonna be painful when the time comes...


Nola Visits Youtube......temporarily.....(she feels so dirty :)


....a quick fix 'til later, when there's more brain power to devote....I'm still half asleep....sorry to build so much anticipation over such a tiny clip :P

A Surprise Visit from Nola

I felt like animating today :P, had about 2.5 hours to do this before work, quick and dirty....Nola has been feeling neglected and I absolutely need to rectify that situation soon....2007 is all about the Jenny film...fewer distractions, more focus....the pier set is high on my list of priorities, after my foam tests...

This little clip is sort of what I have in mind for that 'Nola's Bad Day' series I've mentioned a few times, a string of short mishaps for poor unfortunate Nola...I've got sketches for about a dozen of them, obviously with more time and care spent than on this clip here.....I have a feeling, tho, that brief as this clip may be, her fans will be happy to see her alive and kickin' :)


Tree Monster - lighting tests

No animation here, just me trying out some camera angles and lighting with the sculpt...I like what I see, can't wait to paint him up....started playing with color in the last bits here, but I think I'll go for more of a red-clay-brown-earthy scheme for the final puppet...I haven't even thought about what kind of set I want for this guys tests, probably layered painted backdrops, sort of 2 1/2-D :) but right now I'm focused on foam latex...tomorrow I remove the hair stems, untie him, finish up the underneath area, and Thursday I mold....looks like next week is foamy, fingers crossed....
**the music here is a segment of the I,Robot score by Marco Beltrami, whose Hellboy score is one of my favorites**


Tree Monster Complete

The sculpt is done! I'm about to get to work on some lighting tests, not animated, just regular ole video with me moving the lights around some to make sure everything looks good with Woody here :)......I'll be posting that in a few hours....then Thursday, my next day off, will be molding day..... Posted by Picasa


Tree Monster, back-rooty

I started fleshing out the back-roots a bit, I'd say I've got a solid two hours of work left, scheduled for Friday afternoon :) Posted by Picasa


Tree Monster, from the rear

Hey folks! Sorry about the delays here, especially considering Monster Month is almost over, and I didn't contribute nearly as much as I'd have liked too, not compared to Sven Bonnichsen's incredible Bestiary over at the Scarlet Letters....he's definitely set the bar for next year ;)

I'm recovered from my overnights, well rested and rarin' to go :::D One last delivery on Monday and I've got my foam latex testing supplies all set....GM kit and primer, prosaide, oven, mixer, ultracal, burlap, gloves, cups, scale, clear coat, cornstarch, white clay....and after today's progress on the Tree Beast, I'm one step closer to molding....should happen this week people ::;) Here's a couple of pics of the backside....

**for some reason I'm having Blogger-pic-upload issues, so the images are coming to you via Hello!**

...closer up...I love the shape of the shoulder blade area and the back of the neck... Posted by Picasa

...still got some work to do on the top of the head, back of the hands, and lower back tentacles, er...I mean..roots :) Posted by Picasa


A Little Landmark

Today marks the one year birthday of my Jenny 1 sculpt. Important because this was the first physical manifestation of the project, the first baby step of my stop-mo journey so to speak. I remember I was working in my bedroom, with a board layed out on the bed and the tv on. My wife had just gone back to work post-Katrina and I was lonely after being together non-stop for two months. As I sculpted, I don't think I even knew what I was going to do with Ms. Greenteeth. I definitely had no idea she would lead me to all of this.....so raise a glass and toast the anniversary of the day Jenny swam out of my brain and openned up a world....

picture dated Oct 19 2:51 pm


More Monsters

Here's a back link, into the archives to one of my first posts, a storyboard animatic for the Jenny Greenteeth film....some of this has changed but not much...click here then watch the vid....

gorilla chicken.....'nuff said

Undead gunslinger......doomed from the get-go, not the quickest draw in the west, especially with limbs and digits falling off....

An alien of unspecified origin, wearing a human head hat....well gosh isn't he polite?

Baby tree monster, just a little rooty tadpole tryin' to make a go of it....


Monster Month - Faeries and Ritz

Here are a couple of bits from other projects that bob around in my brainpan like potatoes in a pumpkin stew...seemed appropriate to share now, in Monster Month, woo!! My stop-mo blog buddies have helped carry the monster torch with awesome sketches over at Darkmatters and the Scarlet Letters, and I feel like I should contribute more so here you go....

First up we've got The Vanity Faeries, c.2002....

They are amongst my most beloved creations, co-created by my wife and I, part of a series of children's books about a skewed world, very 'Through the Looking Glass'. In the tales, the path to the gateway to the world is lined by the Vanity Faeries. As you enter, their voices are soothing, their song is sweet, they hide their faces but you can see their reflections in a mirror at each faerie's side, and they are breath-taking. On the way out however, their song becomes vicious, their true faces, hideous, eye contact will turn you to jello. This is possibly the greatest writing challenge I have ever presented myself. Y'see, I want their song to be welcoming and warm on entry, but then malicious and evil on exit. Same words, sung the same way, with different meaning. I've tried to write it a few times over the last few years but I think it'll have to come after the story is done....which could be years unless I get the bug...As with all of my BS projects (Before Stopmo ;) I can completely see this reimagined in stop-motion glory.....

Next up is an unfinished animated storyboard for a funny gross little period zombie musical number, set to Puttin On the Ritz....

Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep This is a test of the Photobucket Video System Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep

Here's a direct link in case the embedded player doesn't wanna.....

I like the idea of having vids that play right on the blog, so let me know how this one goes folks...Ive had trouble with Photobucket in the past....this project is also BS, imagined live-action (Johnny Depp?), but now completely and totally puppet friendly....makes perfect sense given the subject matter: Zombie Guy (think Baron Samedi meets Freddy Krueger) works up an army of rotten zombies then descends on a snooty little upper-class cobblestone marketplace and dismembers shoppers, attaching their limbs to his zombie army where needed, an arm here, a head there....putting on the ritz....puppets with removable limbs anyone? Far off, again unless I get the bug....