Mardi Gras Marionette - The Mask

I've been working on carving the hands and feet, which is time consuming.  Periodically, I've switched over to painting the head and sculpting/embellishing the mask.  She has taken on a bird-like quality which I love, and I will be adding feathers to her gown as well.  Her mask is removable right now, but I will probably glue it down when it is done.  I've considered putting magnets on it so she can remove it during performance, but I'm not sure yet...


Marionette - Hips and legs

Still working on the marionette, alls thats left is the hands and feet....and painting...and costuming...I've also gotten a couple of paintings done in the last few days. One was for Juli on our anniversary (oct. 12), a quick little painting done from one of our wedding photos.  The second features Morgus the Magnificent, a local, late-night, B movie horror film host from my childhood.  He had a wonderfully sick and absurd sense of humor, and showed the greatest bad films ever produced.


Marionette - Waist Up...

Been busy cleaning the studio (again....how can so much crap accumulate so quickly?  Am I a creative hoarder?)  Also progressing nicely with my first marionette!  She is done from the waist up (minus hands, 'cause I'm afraid of hands, but they'll get done eventually....probably last :)  I am loving the amount of detail required to build one of these pups, I may end up having to add lead weights in places like the hips to make sure the weight is distributed evenly.  Right now she sort of leans forward a bit, due to the heaviness of her solid arms and breasts as compared to her hollow chest cavity.  I wont know for sure until I string her, I suppose its possible to adjust her stance with the tightness of the strings (she will be strung at the ears, shoulders, wrists, knees, and possibly somewhere at her back).  Her shoulders joints are leather cord anchored inside her torso and strung through her shoulder, tied at the outside, knot secured with glue.  Her elbows and wrists are strips of leather glued into slots carved into her arms.  More coming soon...


Marionette - Developing the Head

I am currently creating my first marionette, a Mardi Gras reveler complete with feathers, gown, and mask.  Her puppeteering "gimmick" will be that she is second-lining, dancing to a Mardi Gras beat while waving a handkerchief in the air.  It is a New Orleans wedding and funeral tradition that is sort of difficult to explain, so here is a link to a video if you are curious :)

I have already made the neck of my puppet, choosing to go with a neck that is free floating, unconnected to the head or shoulders except by a cord tied on either end that will be anchored inside the head/torso.  This allows for free movement of the head independent of the torso or neck.

I have also started on the head.  I carved out a piece of styrofoam, covered it in plaster wrap, and then began adding layers of water based, air dry clay.  Once complete, the styrofoam will be removed piece by piece so the head is hollow and able to be strung from the inside (the alternative, a solid head, involves visible screw eyes for stringing).  The nose is rather ugly but will be concealed by a mask, so I am mostly focused on making the eyes, lips, and chin as nice as they can be.

More coming soon, I'm riding a wave of inspiration :)



This week, I was struck with sudden inspiration, found myself pondering marionettes. I love puppets of all kinds, have always wanted to branch out from stop mo, and building a marionette is one of those items on my creative bucket list. So I started doing research, and found surprisingly little online. A few tutorials here and there, but most sites say, like stopmo, that there are a million and one ways to construct a stringed puppet, and its all about experimentation. A lot of sites recommended a particular book, "Making and Manipulating Marionettes" by David Currell, so I checked it out from my local library, read it, loved it. Very thorough, yet not confusing for a beginner. I plan on designing my first marionette tonight, and will construct it this week (I'm on vacation from work and this is how I plan to play :)

More info as it develops, sketches, design plans, and whatnot...


Unearthed - The Story So Far...

I've finished the cemetery scene and rerendered "Unearthed" complete with all of the footage I have filmed so far! Enjoy!


More Giant Progress

I've added more strands of hair, constructed the buried hand/fingers which will bar the entrance to the cave, and added a mostly buried foot to the base of the small cliff.  Next up I'll complete the layers of moss/grass, add some trees/plants, and some vines/roots for Herbie to climb.


The Buried Giantess

I'm finishing up another big set piece, the entrance to the cave in "Unearthed", the mouth of the buried stone giantess.  The fingers are rigged with armature for twitchy movement.  Gonna add more "hair" and a layer of spackle over the whole thing to rough it up a bit and give it some stony texture.  I'm working with layers of plaster wrap right now, and the hand is a rubber Halloween decoration that I picked up a couple of years ago.


Walls and Weapons

Today I finished up another prop for Herbie's apartment, this will be mounted to a wall, on display, a Reaper's scythe.

Also created another wall for the apartment. I mounted a couple of sheets of scrapbook paper (a great resource for "wallpaper" of all colors and patterns),  then dry brushed a deeper red over the whole thing to sort of unify the pattern a bit and hide the seem between sheets of paper. 

The previous wall was made back in '07 I believe *sheesh* Here's an image of it...

                                                                More coming soon...


Mossy/Mold Technique

Just successfully added a moss like mold to my friezes.  Alls I did was brush on some elmer's glue where I wanted mold, then stuck on a big piece of green felt flocking, let the glue dry, and peeled off the excess flocking.  I'll be using this technique a ton for Jenny G...



I'm going to add some green flocking in areas I think, like a covering of moss or algae.  Also gonna shatter them in places...

Swampy Inspiration

Spent some time googling Jenny reference photos today.....


Unearthed - Next Scene Set Up...

Herbie enters the woods surrounding the cemetery and wanders, searching for.....something....

These scenes will be a montage of wandering, fading one shot to another.  For each, I will rearrange trees and alter lighting to make it appear as if Herbie has hiked for miles, the fading between shots meant to show passage of time.

These trees will be retired after this short, since I've used them for three shorts now (Widow, Tree Beast, not to mention a slew of Nola bits).  When it comes time for Jenny G pre-production, I will be fabricating all new shrubberies and such :)


Fairy Victrola & Mezzotint - Done!

Ghostly reshoots complete, bit more fiddling with effects and editing and the scene will be done.  Fairy victrola is done, as is the mezzotint, which is a prop based on an old M.R.James short story about a haunted print. Here is a link to the tale if you are interested, it is one of my favorites.  To create the image, I scoured real estate listings for "victorian manors" until I found the right look, then tweaked the image in photoshop to get a "mezzotinty" appearance.


Unearthed - Fairy Victrola & Devil's Backbone

Latest progress--the victrola mostly just needs a paintjob, and the lil diablo is done.  The amber liquid is a two-part resin that I added a drop of orange acrylic paint to.  I just poured it and snapped the pic, hopefully it doesn't become cloudy as it sets...


"Unearthed" - New Props

I'm working on a handful of props for the remaining scenes in "Unearthed", still have to paint and weather the plaster friezes from the previous post, also need to reshoot a ghost scene for the cemetery shots, but spent today on a couple of new bits for Herbie's apartment.  As a treasure hunter, particularly the supernatural variety, Herbie has amassed an impressive collection of items which will be scattered about his home.  A lot of the props for that set have been based on items from some of my favorite horror movies and gothic lit (the demon mask from "Onibaba", the Zuni doll from "Trilogy of Terror", the Mezzotint from MR James' short story, to name a few) and some of the props are from my own imagination.

This cute lil guy is made of sculpey.  He is based on the fetus-in-a-jar from the film "Devil's Backbone".  He will be inserted into a tiny jar filled with an amber liquid.

I've dubbed this prop the Fairy Victrola, it has a bell made from a leaf, and will be painted with vines.  When Herbie first enters his home he will drop on a record, so I will have this rigged with an animatable needle and turntable.  More to come!


"Unearthed" Continues

I'm officially back to work on "Unearthed", today I am finishing up editing the cemetery scenes, mostly compositing and tweaking ghost footage.

I've also been working on a few props for the next scenes. As Herbie wanders through the woods searching for his treasure, he will come upon pieces of a broken temple. I'll have a few broken friezes and columns, which I have been casting in plaster.

I've also been working on a new portfolio website. When I updated this template and discovered that you can now have "pages" on your blog, I decided to do a proper portfolio website, with pages devoted to different media. Go check it out at JeffreyRoche.com, I have a slew of charcoals, prints, puppets, and paintings up so far. (Domain name registered for 2 years through godaddy.com and linked up with my blogger address!)


Pyramus & Thisbe Coming Soon...

I'm still tinkering with my layout, trying different blog banners, possibly an animated GIF like my old header, I dunno....

Reminder:  don't forget to tune in here this Saturday night for the chance to watch Pyramus & Thisbe!!!!


Site Under Construction...

Please excuse my mess while I update my blog template...I'll be testing out different backgrounds and banners over the next few days so don't get too attached to anything :)


NW Animation Fest, Here We Come!!

WOOT!! "Pyramus & Thisbe" has been accepted into the NW Animation Festival, running June 3, 4, and 5th!! I plan to release the film online that weekend so everyone gets to see it around the same time :) I'll keep you posted here...


UPDATE: As you can see from my little countdown widget, I will be releasing P&T online at midnight on the Saturday of the festival! Be there or be square ;)


Whew! *Wipes Sweat Off Brow*

Well I did it. I've finished the film, it is in the hands of the first festival's jury! I plan to submit to several others, including Montreal's StopMo Fest. If accepted into the NW Animation Fest, I plan to release the film online on the weekend of the fest. If not, I'll release it in the next few weeks here.
I accomplished a lot with this film. I worked with a narrator for the first time, and found that I really enjoyed having a soundtrack (the voice recording) to animate to. I watched as scenes played out exactly as I imagined them in my head, not all of them mind you, but enough to make me feel like my animating skills are suitably developed to take on......*gulp*.....Ms. Greenteeth (a film that's been swimming around in my psyche since 2005). I tried some new techniques, including paint-on-glass and a bit of traditional 2-D animation. Not to mention that I completed an 8 1/2 minute short in just over two months. Yay me!

I was, though, and for the first time, extremely disappointed with the quality I was able to achieve with my camera (still using an old Sony analog Handycam). Don't get me wrong, I've always known the quality was lacking, but I suppose seeing my skills as an animator reach greater expectations has left me bellyaching for better image quality to show off those skills. Also, this was the first time I set out to make a film fit for movie screens. The quality in the past has been alright for Internet consumption. But now I'm thinking bigger.

So here's my plan. I've got to finish "Unearthed" with the camera that I started with, my clunker. I've got easily 4-6 months left on that film if I work at a consistent but somewhat leisurely pace. In that time, I will be trying my damnedest to save money here and there for a new camera, preferably a nice (but cheap) Canon DSLR that can link up with my StopMoPro. Well, actually, I won't need the camera until I'm ready to film Jenny G., so I'll have the months of pre-production to save up as well. In any case, I see the light on the horizon. I'm going for the gold! Battening down the hatches! Jenny Greenteeth is coming, and she's pissed :)


RIP Pyramus

Sorry for the lack of posts, I've been slaving away on the new short....a few more shots to go, some fx, sound fx, and a bit of editing work, and the "Pyramus & Thisbe" film will be ready for festival submission!!!


A Little Clip

Here's a bit of the new short, revealing my latest challenge: working with a narrator/recording a voice/animating to a pre-existing recording...more on that later, I've got work to do :)


Today's Bits and Bobs...

I'm working on a few things today, finishing up my mulberry tree, setting up my shot for tonight's animation, and painting my textured wall for Pyramus and Thisbe's homes.

The tree is composed of two plastic shrubs bound together with tape and stuck inside a one inch wooden cup filled with hot glue. Then I took some brown kraft paper, crumpled it and un crumpled it, and wrapped that around the trunk. Added some brown acrylic paint, and hot glued on my little styrofoam white mulberries, harvested from another fake plant piece. The blood-stained mulberries will be attached to the back half of the tree so that between takes I can simply spin the tree to expose the red side for the rest of the short.

My shot for tonight is the final Fates setpiece, featuring Atropos cutting the thread of Thisbe's life. I rigged a few pieces of black foamcore to hang/drape thread around the set, but didn't like the way the thread was hanging, so I taped a penny to the end of each strand so they would hang straight. Made sure each strand was long enough so the pennies rest on the tabletop, so they won't sway between frames...

And lastly, the wall of P&T's apartments. They share a wall and communicate through a crack so the majority of the interior shots will be in front of this background wall, Thisbe in dark blue on the left, and Pyramus in white on the right, so there is a little play between dark and light. The wall is foamcore textured with wall spackle and painted with acrylics.


Fates Animated

I won't be sharing too much footage as I'm filming this short, gonna wait til its all done. That being said here is a small clip of one of my Fates, animated :)



Yesterday I painted up the backdrop for the night scenes. Blue acrylic paint gradient on a large piece of black foamcore. There is a hole cut out for the moon, which is printed on vellum and taped behind the opening. It will be backlit. There are also small punches in the sky so some of the backlight can be seen, as stars. May have to clean up the moon opening a bit, it is pretty roughly cut but may not be visible, will have to wait and see when I set up lighting on set...


Mulberry Paint-On-Plexi

Been hard at work making this new short happen :) My three Fate puppets are juuuust about finished, as are my pups for Pyramus and Thisbe--just trying to work out the mechanics of Thisbe's gown at this point, attaching it in segments which will still allow me to access her lil legs for animationy purposes. Harder than it sounds. Filming is complete on the cemetery set for Unearthed so I've dismantled that and am ready to build the P&T sets once pups are done. I should be animating by the end of next week, wOOt!
A new development....I was dreading making the lioness puppet required to tell the story of P&T and decided I would use a different style of animation for her. Tossed around shadow pups and ultimately decided to do paint-on-glass, which I've always wanted to try. That concept grew and by the end of storyboarding I had inserted about 4 or 5 key sequences that will be done in this style. One of them involves a mulberry turning from snow white to blood red (the myth tells of how mulberries got their color). Here is the initial painting that I will animate, just finished it minutes ago. Oil paints on plexi glass, laid on top of a white drawing table. I will remove small amounts of the red using q-tips, revealing the white surface underneath, until the berries are white, then will reverse the footage so they change from white to red in the film. For some reason I figured that working backwards like this (red to white) would be easier....


Fates: Lachesis and Atropos

Chugging along on my Fates puppets, just about done with Lachesis (the measurer, the mother) and Atropos (the cutter, the crone). Clotho (the spinner, the maiden) will be the most difficult because her arms and legs are exposed and so she requires more layers of latex buildup, and some kind of rig up her arms that I can feed thread through for the spinny effect in animation ( I'm thinking of using cut up coffee-stirrer straws, a piece hidden behind each of her fingers, I plan on creating the shot as close as possible to that drawing I posted in the previous entry)...

Those shears are one of my favorite props to date, definitely one I am most proud of. I was racking my brain trying to figure out how to make them so they would be completely functional, got to playing with some floral wire and it all just sort of worked. I trimmed some bits of the wire, about the same gauge as standard armature wire, pounded the ends flat, trimmed them 'sharp' with wire cutters, created a hole in the center of each piece by hammering a straight pin through (very difficult but not impossible), and then connected the pieces by inserting a straight pin to act as the screw. I'll try to remember to post more detailed pics...


NW Animation Festival

The NW Animation Festival is a new film fest being spearheaded by Portland animator Sven Bonnichsen. He has some fantastic ideas, including touring a "Best of the Fest" lineup throughout the year. If you are an animator, help him make this festival a success by submitting a film!! Personally, I'll be creating something new to submit, but you can send in any film any length from any point in your career as an animator. Read more at the website:

My plan is this: finish shooting the cemetery scene for Unearthed this week, strike the set, and begin production on a new short for the fest based on a Roman myth called "Pyramus & Thisbe", a bloody tale of forbidden love which will be presented by the Fates. I've been wanting to turn my Fates into puppets for awhile and have had a blast working on them over the last couple of days. Stay tuned for more...