From the Vault...

...cleaning up today I came across this postcard from my Tulane undergraduate exhibit...thought y'all might want to see it....definitely good for a chuckle....that's me in the middle with the black leather & tribal facial tattoo (yeah, its fake....I tend to keep my freak a little closer to my heart ;)...the plan was for everyone to show up for the shoot looking like criminals....seems so long ago...the show worked out great for me, there was one printmaker, everyone else was sculpture or ceramics, so I got the majority of the wall space...unfortunately I have no pics of the show (what was I thinking?).......ahhhh, memories...


Jenny II, Breast Test....

OK....added some (emaciated vestiges of) breasts to Jenny, and now...I'm just not sure....what do you folks think? Boobs or no boobs? ...tried just one and it was worse than not having any, seemed if I were gonna give her breasts, I should go all the way...sculpted them first on the Jenny I torso, then carefully removed them and put them on Jenny II (the world's first successful breast transplant?), blended them a bit at the edges, so they would be easy to remove if I should decide to....it would be great to do a couple of test clips right now to see how they look on film (this is getting a bit perverse isn't it?)...she will have seaweed draped about so its not like they'll be floppin' around in the wind, however I'd still like to see how they look in a clip...but alas.........got some thinkin' to do...may try to set up some fake screencaps, with moody lighting etc....
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...worked on the shoulders/neck some too, stop staring at her chest, she's a bit self-conscious............and she'll eat you...


Jenny II Coming Along...

...shaped out the legs, mostly finished up the ribcage (gonna add some flesh on top in parts to see how it looks, if its a thumbs down, won't be hard to get it back to this point)...shaped the arms a little more, and worked on the back and spine...started giving her a sort of carapace on the buttockal area, like a crawfish tail, didn't get very far before deciding against it...just looked too armored...gonna try out scales next...

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...I've been spammed!!

...word verification now needed for posting comments, sorry for the inconvenience folks but I think I managed to stop the spammer in his/her/its tracks before getting to the more recent posts...had about 20 comments in a row, all generic things like 'Nice color scheme'......bastards...


Jenny II, Still In-Progress

...had time to sculpt a little today, fleshed out the back shapes a bit and added some small details to the ribcage and upper-belly...still have a ways to go, basic shape is done I think, then comes large details, then miniscule detailing and texturing....

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Nola Chaplin

Watch the video

...felt like animating a bit today...the timing on it could be better (practice, practice, practice) but I had a lot of fun with this.......though I think Nola now has some gender issues ;)

This one's for you Ale....


Jenny II Early Sculpt

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...here's today's progress, took Mike's advice and cut the blocks down a bit, which was a great suggestion (as usual)...about 3 hours work here, at least 1.5 of which were spent on the pelvis which has given me some trouble...difficult to sculpt in 3-D, with the way it sort of curves forward...at one point it looked like mickey mouse :P...plus having some issues in general with how to make her fleshy but still skeletal, bony but still feminine...its definitely getting there though....really like the side view, tho I actually only worked on it full frontal (other than slapping some clay onto the back to cover up), the side just kind of came together naturally which is nice...used a latex skin of Jenny I's torso for reference too, theres a pic below of II wearing it like a shirt...had my copy of "Cyclopedia Anatomicae" open while I sculpted, an awesome resource to have, a must for all us artists...covers everything from humans to horses, skin, muscles, and skeletons...funny little side note, the sculpt started this whole strange conversation with my wife about the mating habits of undead water people, and fish in general, which ended with her proclaiming, "....Fish monsters need love, too!..."
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Jenny II, Pre-Sculpt Armature

...took a page out of Sven's book (and the SMA Handbook) and made myself a little puppet-sculpt platform...had a wooden filing cabinet unassembled that was missing pieces (I think I picked it up at the side of the road, where I get a lot of my scraps, etc), the top of which was perfect for my little platform, the recess of space underneath is just wide enough to fit tie-downs, yay!....all I had to do was drill the holes...
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...tonight I started work on the next generation of Jenny (lookie, lookie....legs!), built the pre-sculpt armature...decided to go with wooden blocks for the ribcage and pelvis so as not to waste too much of my coveted 1/16" armature wire...made the hands quite a bit smaller, a little more proportional, and left space for the tie-downs I plan on placing there in the finished puppet...not sure whether they should go in the 'palm' area or at the wrist, any ideas? it seems if they are at the wrists, I may have trouble animating...going to go over this armature with plasticine, totally resculpt her torso & arms, give her some legs and fins/feet, then make a 2- or 3-piece mold, which will hopefully be filled with some kind of foam latex eventually (gonna watch Sven very carefully in the coming weeks/months...) I'm hoping I won't have to re-sculpt the head, trying to figure a way around doing that b/c I'm very happy with her present head...I'm thinking I can make another solid rubber latex head using the first mold, attach that to the new clay sculpt before making the new mold...might lose a little detail though, and I don't want to have to scrap the whole thing b/c the head is shoddy...........maybe I'll just resculpt the damn thing....definitely have a better sense of her size now that she can stand next to Nola...will probably start the sculpting tomorrow...in any case I don't expect to have a finished puppet here for awhile, just eager to do the sculpt, and maybe the mold too...
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A Woodcut How-To

I spent last night and this morning working on a woodcut of Jenny, rediscovered the sheer joy of printmaking and decided to post a how-to in case anyone is interested in trying one on their own. This here Jenny is 5x7", an edition of 12, some of which will be mailed out to unsuspecting victims this week (or as soon as I can get to the post office). Normally printmaking requires a press...lithography, acid-etching, even linoleum usually needs to be run through a press to transfer ink from your plate to your page, but with a woodcut, all you need is a wooden spoon and some elbow grease. It can get complicated for some people, because it is a reductive process, but I prefer to work reductively (especially with charcoal...I usually cover the page black, then erase away the image).
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First let's talk supplies. You'll need wood (nothing too hard or you'll wear yourself out carving), paper (any kind really, though Japanese papers or rice papers work best), a tear-bar for tearing your paper, ink (which comes water-based and oil-based), a brayer (basically a rubber rolling pin), a flat surface to roll out ink (glass or plexi is best because it won't absorb the ink as you are working), and some carving tools.
I'm discussing a one-color print here, doing multiple colors is much more complicated, I'll explain at the end. Start off by drawing the image onto your wood plate. Keep in mind that carving is easiest if you go WITH the grain of the wood. You can draw in graphite but the graphite marks will sometimes transfer to your paper when you print, so it is best to use a sharpie or permanent marker to draw your image, and will be easier to see that way...I usually draw in graphite then go over with a marker...also keep in mind that the image when printed will be a mirror reflection of the plate, so lettering, etc. needs to be drawn backwards. Check the composition of your image by holding the plate up to a mirror, then if you're satisfied, start carving away the negative space. I chose a fairly soft wood, so I was able to use my dremel with a very small drill bit to outline the hair and carve away the smallest details in Jenny, then used wood-carving tools on the rest of the plate. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Once the plate is carved its time to print. Prepare your paper, you usually want a border around the image, with about twice as much space at the bottom of the page so the image can 'breathe' a bit. Figure out what size each piece of paper should be...here my plate is 5x7", so my paper is about 7x8.5", Rives BFK, leftover scraps that I had sitting around. Don't CUT the paper to the size you want, TEAR it so that you have a sort of fuzzy edge...most fine drawing papers have fuzzy edges, and its a nicer presentation if the rest of the edges are similar. I don't have a tear-bar (a large metal bar with a beveled edge) so I used a T-square...mark your paper where it will be torn, line up the bar, and tear the piece quickly, one swift whoosh. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Now you're ready...squeeze a small amount of ink out onto your rolling surface. I used a water-soluble black Speedball ink here, just slightly more viscous than acrylic paint. Use the brayer to spread out the ink, like rolling out dough for a pizza, until the brayer is evenly coated, then roll the ink onto your plate, not too thick...you will need to print a couple of APs (artist proofs) because the wood plate will absorb much of the ink on the first few prints, and your image will be light. You can also use the AP to make sure everything is carved the way you want it. Here's a comparison between my AP and the final print of the series... Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
After you roll the ink onto your wood, place a piece of your paper on top of it. You can register the paper to make sure it is lined up properly, and will have to if you are doing multiple colors, but here I just sort of eyed it up. Press the paper down a bit with the palm of your hand, then take the wooden spoon and start rubbing, putting as much pressure on the spoon as you can handle.
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I usually get all of the edges and corners first, then rub horizontally across, then vertically, then diagonally, to make sure that I have rubbed the whole plate. Then peel off the paper, and Voila! Your first print. Keep doing this for each piece...the more you print the less ink you will need toward the end, because the plate will hold a lot of ink.
Technically I could do another run off of this plate (I won't) because it is one color. For multiple colors, it gets a little complicated. Here is an example of a three-color woodcut that I did of my Grandmother when she was ill.
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First I carved away only what I wanted to remain white, the white of the page. Then rolled the block in yellow and printed 10 copies. Then I carved away wherever I wanted the yellow to show, rolled the plate in light green, and printed again, directly on top of the previous color drop (which is where registering the paper comes in, to make sure you place the page in the same spot)...then I carved away what would stay lt. green, rolled the plate with dark green, and did the final color drop. The cool thing here is that once you're done, that's it. You can never print the plate again in the same way because of the in-between carving, unless you do each color on a separate plate, which is even more complicated, because then not only do you have to line up the paper properly, but you have to make sure that the image is in the same place on each plate.
My next Jenny print :) will be multiple colors...
Hope you learned something useful...with stop-motion, I am such an information leech that its nice to feel like I'm giving something back for a change...


Beginnings of a New (baby) Project

....so I've mentioned that I am a bit ADD with my artwork, which is strange to me because in all other aspects of life I am pretty much one of the most laid-back people you will ever meet, but I have a tendency to bounce around between projects a lot, which is one of the great things about stop-motion in general....there is just so much to do and learn that I am never bored...one of my goals since Pandora is to continue to pursue and create other shorts, as a learning process, because I am so passionate about Jenny that I basically want to make all of my mistakes on other, shorter shorts...originally I had pegged stopmoshorts as a great outlet for this, and still think it will be, but instead of always having a deadline hanging over my head for these short shorts, I've decided to start working on a new little film that can take time to germinate for a while, something to break the monotony of Jenny as far as puppets and sets go...
This time, instead of having to create a story all my own, I am going to do an adaptation of a Hellboy story called 'Pancakes', a very short but sweet and funny 2-page comic story that appears in the 'Right Hand of Doom' TPB. It presents its own set of challenges, like trying to translate the beautiful work of Mike Mignola into three dimensions (gonna try painting the shadows instead of creating them with actual light). One of the goals here also is to test out my ability to synch voices. The Jenny film will have no voices, only moody music and sound effects, more like a silent film, but synching is something that I will absolutely need experience with in the future.
I've been working here and there on a baby Hellboy puppet for the short, different from both the Jenny and Nola puppets. There is very little animation actually involved in the story, so the puppet does not need to be very elaborate, no tie-downs etc. His head and arm are fully sculpey, hard as a rock and hand-painted, with joints in the back of his jaw and at the wrist of the right hand of doom, very 'Muppet'-like. Also features realistic-like clothing, which is a first for me, and a styrofoam-fill body, also a first. And hey, carrying on the tradition of my test puppets, he has no legs and only one arm :D....not sure what that's about, I'll ask Freud.
Baby HB will also have snap on eyelids, and possibly a replacement mouth or two for those 'oooo' sound lip shapes. The bottom jaw is held in with a small piece of armature wire that fits snugly into a small hole in the back of his mouth. I have some ideas for the rest of the piece, there's a silhouetted panel of demons screaming, for instance, that I want to approach in a similar way to those crazy cool flashback battle sequences in Coppola's Dracula. And you've already seen my pamcake/wax butter test clip. Still have a few puppets to make (an army general and a couple of demons) and some backgrounds and props, I expect the fork to be the most difficult to fashion. I should also state here that I do not plan on making any money off of this short, it is strictly a fan film, a homework assignment if you will (just in case any of Mignola's lawyers are watching ;) Will probably use parts of the score from the Hellboy film, and have already tapped a good friend of mine and former roommate to do the voices. He's a local band guy, has some great recording and sound fx equipment, and has already said he would do the score for Jenny, which has me very excited, but I won't get to bug him about that until the flick is actually done.
I'll only be periodically working on this short, not something I'll claim to have done anytime soon (maybe a few months?)....

DelToro's Blog

Guillermo Del Toro, director of Hellboy, The Devil's Backbone (among others), and the upcoming Pan's Labyrinth (which looks amazing), has started a 'fan blog'...he doesn't discuss his films, or the making of, rather uses his blog to discuss his favorite artists, and he is a TRUE connoisseur...some great names on his list, including some I was not aware of and can thank him for helping me discover....click the link at the bottom of this post to visit his blog...he doesn't post pics or media files of any sort, expects the viewer to do research on his or her own, which, really, is half the fun...

GDT's Fan Blog


Dadaist Wax Test

Watch the video

...been a long, long week for me, stress galore, and to boot I got nothing done on the Jenny project for the first time since I began in December...but its bound to happen now and again unfortunately, as the big iron fist of life comes crashing down periodically...On the up-side, I spoke to someone at RueMorgue, trying to get some freelance work, which they don't need right now (a nice way of telling me to "Shove off"), but the art director did visit my blog, and seemed very interested, mentioned plugging the film in their 'Roadkill' section...asked me to drop him a line when the project is done (woo-hoo!..........2 years later....)

Anyway, been wanting to experiment with wax for awhile, ever since reading an article by Marc Spess over at Animateclay.com...I have never cast or sculpted in wax, just another material to experiment with :P...this here is basic candle wax, not ideal but its what I've got, so....here's my little Dadaist test clip....melting faces and pamcakes, two great tastes that taste great together!  Enjoy....


Early Inspirations: Mignola & Poe, Masters of Shadow

If you were stranded on an island and could have with you one book & one film, which would they be? When we evacuated for Katrina, loading my small truck became a game of Tetris. We didn't pack the bed of the truck because we knew we'd be heading thru stormy weather, so we were extremely limited in what we could take away with us. We have three cats and one large carrier (another game of tetris, this time with claws), we packed our bag of 'important papers' (wedding license, birth certs., lease, loose photos, and the like), we packed a couple of days worth of clothes (who knew we'd be away for a month?), we packed our photo albums, cameras, hard drive & monitor, one portfolio, and one small bag of entertainment, including Hellboy trade paperbak #5, "The Chained Coffin and Others", which I had bought a few days prior to the mad rush out of the city. Stranded in a strange place, watching the horrors presented to us so lovingly by the media, eventually I retreated into the BPRD (Hellboy's Bureau for Paranormal Research and Development) and came out with a tale of my own. I had never heard of Jenny Greenteeth, and here are the panels that started it all, from a short story called "The Corpse"...(Mignola is a genius)...
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Another source of distraction: collected works of Edgar Allan Poe. I read "Ligeia", and the poem contained within (excerpts of which were also used as the opening narration for another Hellboy story). I read the poem again, and again, and knew that my Jenny tale would be stop-motion. Had to be. Just KNEW it, as if Poe were explaining this to me in his own words as we sat at a quiet table in a dusty little corner of my brain, sipping Jack n Cokes. Here's what he said:

"Lo! 'tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years!
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theatre, to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.
Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly--
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their Condor wings
Invisible Wo!
That motley drama! --oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased forevermore,
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot,
And much of Madness and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.
But see, amid the mimic rout,
A crawling shape intrude!
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes!--it writhes!--with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.
Out--out are the lights--out all!
And over each quivering form,
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
And the angels, all palid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm,
That the play is the tragedy, 'Man,'
And its hero the Conqueror Worm."


Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down

I spent a lot of time this week trying to clean/organize the spare room, making ready for my stop-motion workspace and studio space. Here's a pic of the room now, I wish I had taken a better 'before' pic when I had started cleaning it out so you could see how bad it was to begin with...

This week I got the table moved in, it was in our kitchen but we just got a hand-me-down from my sister, which is smaller and nicer and leaves more space in the kitchen, so it worked out :D...with the exception of my workout machine (see how much use thats getting) and my wife's sewing machine, everything else in the room ammounts to supplies which needs to be organized and artwork which needs to be properly stored...the window will be covered, the table will be moved more into the center of the room, with a boosted up stage (I'm thinking about chest-level) so that I can access tie-downs. The pier will extend out from the tabletop set, and the underwater set will be built to slip underneath the pier, on the floor in front of the table, for any fancy ambitious overhead pier shots that I might want to experiment with...

Spent a few hours working on that miniature set/shadowbox that I had mentioned, when I realized that I was pretty much wasting time...it would be cool to have, and I may complete it at some point, but I could better spend my time working on a cardboard actual-size set to move around and test out...also spent some time thinking about where my tie-downs are going to be...mostly along the shoreline and pier, there probably won't be any walking around in the back areas of the set (the cabin and large tree set pieces that Ive started working on)...

Here's my idea for the pier tie-downs...as there will be a certain amount of erratic back-and-forth on the pier, I don't want to riddle it with tie-down holes, so I'm thinking I'll build the set leaving enough space between each pier board that I can access a series of tie-down strips that will mount underneath the pier. I'll use these strips for Nola and Jenny. There are running shots where I may use a rig similar to Mike's recent stopmoshorts Buster set-up, but for the most part, the pier tie-downs will get the most wear-n-tear. I originally thought if I made the Jenny puppet heavy enough, I wouldn't need tie-downs, but I realize now that they'll be necessary for her crawl...which means Ms. Greenteeth is about ready for a second test puppet, probably a latex skin using the mold, with slightly smaller hands and tie-downs in the wrists and feet....oh yeah....feet...was going to have her bottom half obscured by fabric and fishing nets and seaweed, didn't think I would need to actually give her a bottom half, since she's mostly going to be using her arms to drag herself, but now I'm all ready to sculpt her hips and legs and feet, which when placed together will look a bit like a fish tail for the underwater shots...will also let me put her in a semi-crouched pose for her big hisscream...