Friday, December 19, 2008


I do not operate well in winter, hence my general lack of activity here recently. I should be working on 'Monday to Friday' but due to the season sapping every ounce of my motivation and energy... I'm not. I have mainly been crocheting woolly hats for baby Mya (my fiance Daz's niece) for the fast approaching Christmas-type celebrations, and sleeping.

I am longing for spring and the usual period of manic excitement and hyperactivity it usually brings me, then I'll probably finish 'Monday to Friday' at lightening speed. In fact it was during my spring euphoria last year that I spontaneously decided that I was going to make stop-motion animations (despite knowing nothing about the process) which remarkably seems to have been one of my more successful ideas (much more successful than the farming invisible llamas and building multi-coloured yurts 'inspired idea' of 2006 anyway). Funny how things work out...

Anyway, my applications for funding were turned down, not that I'm surprised. I put in the applications mainly for the experience of putting together a film proposal, knowing that I'd be up against lots of much more experienced animators.

Oh, and the big commission I mentioned in the previous post fell through, but the maketing agency have said they will consider me for future jobs. Still, it is very encouraging to know that a genuine London marketing agency (with clients like MTV) has even seen my work, let alone liked it enough to contact me!

So, er, yeah... rest of winter will be spent working v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y on 'Monday to Friday'.
When that is finished, I have plans to make 'Loose Yarn', the film I applied for the funding for. I will have to make it on a much smaller budget than I would have done with the funding, but it will still be the most ambitious (and expensive!) thing I have ever attempted.

Oh well, roll on spring...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Exciting times....

There hasn't been much time for blog updating over the last few weeks... very very busy.

For a start I've been working on a short film proposal for funding from the 4mations scheme (run by channel 4). Being my usual self, I got a bit carried away trying to get it perfect so I ended up not sleeping a great deal over the last few weeks. Anyway, now it's just a case of wait and see.

On top of that, I may (fingers crossed) have a big commission (about 2 months worth of animating) but I can't really say much more about that at the moment...
'Monday to Friday' (the short I've been working on with the monsters in the factory) may have to be put on hold for quite a while!

These truly are exciting times for me!

Also, if anyone is interested, I have a temporary website up (until I have the time to build a proper one), but it does have a gallery full of my woolly monster artist-toys:

You can also see a selection of my woolly creations on Flickr:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I'm in the HAFFTube final 50!

HAFFTube is a web based competition being held as part of the Holland Animation Film Festival, where animators had to submit their youtube short films to be voted out by the public. I entered three, and now voting has ended and 'Grey Heights Guesthouse' is in the final top 50 (and is the shortest film in the running)! Woohoo!
You can see it by going to the first page of 'Favourites' on the HAFFTube site.

Now the 50 remaining animations will be judged by a panel made up of filmmakers selected for the main film festival. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bacup Film Festival

Two of my 10 second long animations (the Teleporter one and the Grim Guesthouse one) are going to be shown at the Bacup Film Festival, one on the 24th and the other on the 25th of October. That means free film festival tickets for me and Daz! Thanks Steeeeeee!

In the unlikely event that anyone reading this blog is going to be in the Rossendale area of East Lancashire next weekend, come along to the Horse and Bamboo Theatre in Waterfoot on either night and see my 10 seconds of glory (and stay to watch lots of other interesting films of course).

The theatre it is being held at sounds really interesting, and has a big emphasis on puppetry and masks. I had never even heard of it before, but apparently it is quite famous.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Alien Technology - constructing my new set

My industrial looking alien set is almost finished - just a few details to add, a few wires to tidy up, then glue everything down and it's done. I'll be posting some good photos of the finished set very soon. Until then, here are some photos of how it was made and how it looks so far. Sorry about the horrid shiny flash lighting in the photos, I will light the photos of the finished set properly, I promise!

The set is the workplace of the two monsters I posted a photo of a while back. I've indulged a lot of my obsessions with this set - electronics, 'alien' alphabets, technological looking stuff...
My main inspirations for the design of the set are the spaceship interiors you see in science fiction (Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey etc.). I've always loved the fact that there are so many important looking buttons and dials and lights and screens, yet none of them actually do anything - they are just designed to look important by the set designer.
The other visual influence on this project was 1950/60s machinery - the huge broken machines you find abandoned outside college metalwork departments, the disconnected 'mystery' boxes you find on the walls of school basements that once controlled heating systems that were removed decades ago... I think I just like machines which serve no purpose. Anyway, I've built one of my own.

Here is a photo of some, but not all, of the things I used to build this set (one or two things that I didn't use managed to sneak into this photo too).

The materials I used included: a sheet of MDF, a sheet of foamboard, woodscrews, lots of metal washers of assorted sizes, upholstery nails, flat wooden shapes with holes drilled round the edges (from the Arnold Basketry Kit!), those plastic cap things for covering the heads of screws in silver and white, brass rings, brass panel pins, brass picture turns, paper-mache craft boxes, old bits of meccano, different coloured electricians tape, lots of PVA glue, acrylic paint, sandpaper, some tubes from a duplo set (like big lego), nyloc nuts, a fine point Sharpie marker, LEDs (light emitting diodes) of different sizes and colours, lots of resistors of different values, heatshrink tubing, insulated wire, lead free solder, aluminium wire and probably quite a few things I've forgotten.....

So, er, yeah, lots of random stuff. Most of the fixings are available from any good hardware store and the electronics components I ordered from Maplin.

This shows some of the bits and bobs arranged on the piece of MDF that will become the back wall of the set so I could get an idea of how things should look. I then glued down all the bits I wanted to be painted with the background colour, using PVA glue. I used upholstery nails to look like rivets, wooden shapes too look like metal panels and metal washers to add detail. I also drilled a line of holes across the board where a row of LEDs will be.

Once the glued was dry, I painted over the entire background with a specially mixed 'steel' colour. I mixed two small pots of Games Workshop 'Boltgun Metal' paint with a large amount of cheap white craft acrylic paint and a little black and blue acrylic. This made the paint slightly metallic looking. I applied it using a sponge to avoid brushmarks.

The strip at the top is made using black and red electricians tape over the row of holes for the LED. I added details using washers and some plastic tile-spacers that I had already painted black. Everything was coated in a layer of PVA glue to protect it and make it shiny like metal (as opposed to the matte wood it is actually made of).

This is the floor of my set. I made it by sticking rectangular panels of sandpaper in a grid pattern with small gaps between them, onto a large piece of wood using PVA glue. I then painted the sandpaper with a mixture of PVA and grey acrylic. I used a darker grey acrylic to paint the 'grout' between the tiles, then before it dried I smudged it about with a sponge. I then used a large piece of bubble-wrap to print a spotty texture onto the tiles, first light grey paint, then dark grey - hopefully this texture will help to disguise tie-down holes. I then went over the grout again with a fine brush and a very dark grey paint.

If you look to the left of the photo there is a little black box with wires coming out of it and LEDs on the front. I used lots and lots of these in this project. They are made from those tiny brown paper-mache gift boxes you can buy in craft stores. I painted boxes and lids with acrylic paint then PVA to strengthen them. Then I poked little holes in the boxes with a pin so I could push the 'legs' of LEDs through. I also sometimes pushed resistors through to decorate the boxes. Then I wired up the LEDs.

This is what is inside the little boxes - messy but functional. I think made 12 of them in all. Some of the LEDs on the other side are not wired up - I cut the 'legs' of these LEDs and cover them in hot glue to hold them in place and insulate them (don't want to short out my circuits!). Then I solder the LEDs together in series with a resistor (the value of the resistor depends on the type and number of LEDs) being very careful not to burn a hole in the cardboard with the soldering iron. The wires are all colour coded so I know which terminal of the battery they need to go to. I will be running the LEDs in the set on three seperate 9V circuits.

Obvious Warning: if you are going to mess with electronics never use mains electricity, you'll end up killing yourself and/or burning your house down, and don't leave your creation switched on unattended in case it catches fire!

This is the front and back of the (almost) finished back panel of the set. Lots of LEDs, lots of buttons and lots and lots of wires... good job I quite enjoy soldering!

This is a front and back view of my console. It was made from a Christmas gift box and some upholstery nails. The buttons are all plastic screw-covers (with the backs snipped off) with symbols drawn on them with a fine marker, then covered in a thin layer of PVA to stop it rubbing off.
The 'big red button' is a safety nose for stuffed-toys!

This is roughly how it will all fit together - at the moment things are still propped up instead of glued in place and there are still loose wires and a few details missing, but you get the idea.

There will be photos of the finished set next time, along with close-ups of some of the details and descriptions of how I made them.

Until next time, have fun. Oh, and if you haven't already seen it, watch Michel Gondry's 'The Science of Sleep' - cardboard stop-motion cities, celophane water, tin-foil time machines and huge hands - brilliant film in my opinion.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Castlegardener's Poetree and other updates

Back again after another week of not being able to do much due to back pain...grrrrr. It means that the short I'm working on wasn't finished for the Bristol short film festival deadline and probably won't be finished for the Bacup film festival. Oh well, shit happens.
The short I'm working on is going to be the first of five episodes of a series, so I might pitch it as a pilot to 4mations and see if I can get some money to make the other four episodes. It's worth a try anyway!

Anyway, onto the most important news: A couple of weeks ago Castlegardener (aka John Hankins) finished working on a fantastic animation called 'Poe-Tree'. If you haven't already seen it, go and watch it now on his youtube channel:
It's John's first lip-sync animation and I love it! The woolly ent puppet is one of my creations and I sent it to John in Hawaii along with lots of replacement mouths, so I think he felt obliged to do some lip-sync with it. The voice for the ent is Oregon based animator Don Carlson (Pram Maven).
What more could you want in an animation - a very dramatic poetry-reading tree, Edgar Allan Poe, a brilliant raven puppet and John's incredibly expressive animation!

My woolly creations have also been popping up in other far-flung places recently... check out the bouncing finger puppets on Canadian animator Emmyymme's (Emily Baxter's) blog:
and Shelley Noble, who is working on her film 'Halfland' in California, has received the 'woolly glove fish' (or Doug to his friends) and the shoal of 'alphabafish' I made for her. There are a couple of test shots of them at the end of this post on her blog:

The monsters are taking over!

Next post: how to make a high-tech industrial alien looking set out of MDF, cardbord, junk, electronic components and stuff from the hardware store....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Why you should never leave alcoholic beverages in your animation studio....

Last month I planned to make an animation for the 'soundbite challenge' on (the online hub of all things stop-motion) where the aim was to make an animation to fit a 30 second piece of rock music. Unfortunately due to a whole host of events conspiring against me, I never got round to it. I did manage to set the puppets up for the shoot a few weeks ago, I just didn't have time to animate them. The intention was to animate all the monster puppets from my previous animations getting drunk and partying together.

Well, today I am putting all the puppets away and dismantling the set to build new one, so I thought I'd take a few photos of the drunken troublemakers before their booze was taken away and they were put way in a box for the forseeable future:

I apologise for the rudeness of that woolly purple monster - I assure you I had nothing to do with it!
The bottom photo is the box that the hungover monsters will call home for the next few months. I feel rather bad really, taking them out of their natural habitat whilst they were intoxicated and shutting them in a box without any asprin.
To anyone who is worrying about the quantity of hideous coloured liqueurs we own, please note that we may own them, but we don't actually drink them! All these bottles are all almost full, old and dusty (some are well past the 'best before' date) and were given to us over the years, probably by people who were desperate to get rid of them. People also keep buying Jack Daniels as gifts for Daz, despite the fact he hates the stuff... he just must look like a Jack Daniels drinker.
Now on with building my new set...

Monday, August 18, 2008

New woolly monster puppets

Woohoo! I'm back in action after a week incapacitated by back pain. I managed to put my back out whilst I was asleep (no, I don't understand it either) and spent days unable to do anything but sit upright and perfectly still or lie flat and perfectly still - really useful. Thankfully I am now feeling much better although still a little delicate. It's slowed down my schedule a lot though, which is a shame.

Here are the two puppets for my next animation. Unfortunately Steeee isn't going to be able to write a script for me due to being a very busy man (no seriously, I don't know when he finds time to sleep). I have come up with an ingenious idea for the script (or lack thereof) myself. It will all become apparent when you see the animation...

Anyway, puppets:

Woolly monsters - my speciality. They are hand crocheted and have wire armatures. The purple one is made from a purple acrylic yarn crocheted together with magenta mohair so it has a fuzzy surface. The nature of fuzzy surfaces when animated is going to be used as a feature in this monster. The blue details are a mixture of acrylic and fuzzy polyester yarn. The green monster is a combination of bright green and mustard coloured acrylic yarns and a grassy green acrylic wool blend. The eyes are made of uncovered white plastic self-cover buttons (the ones that are designed to be covered with fabric) and the locking disks on the back of them can be used to secure the eyes in place. The pupils are black buttons attached with white-tack so they can be moved around. I have not made the replacement mouths yet, but they will be felt donut mouths.

Here are some photos of how they were made. First I crocheted the skin of the monsters. I find it easiest to make the skin first, then make the armature to fit. Each monster was crocheted as four sections: the head/body, a trouser shaped section and two arms. After I'd made the skin, I placed the segments together, drew round them and made an armature from aluminium arnature wire and epoxy putty to fit the shape, leaving plenty of room for padding. I didn't add hands to the armature at this point so that I could still thread the arm wires through the skin. The feet have flange-nuts inside the epoxy putty to act as tie-downs.

I padded the armatures with polyester wadding, usually used in quilting, glued to the wire with Copydex (latex adhesive) and fixed in place with fabric strapping, usually used in first aid.

Then I 'dressed' the monsters in their skins adding extra stuffing where needed, then added hands made of epoxy putty and wire. I wrapped the wire fingers and the wire antenna in Copydex and yarn to make them thicker and rubbery. I threaded short lengths of french knitting onto the fingers and this grips to the rubbery surface to stop it sliding around. Then I finished sewing on the arms.

Now I just have to make the mouths then on to building the set - expect excessive use of LEDs, resistors and pretend alien technology...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Adventures in wholesale land

This afternoon Daz came home from work early and took me to Stax. It is a HUGE wholesale warehouse in Walkden near Manchester. You have to be a business and have a membership card to get in, and there is a £50 minimum spend, but luckily Daz has a card and had a big shopping list for work, so I just added my stuff to his bill and gave him the cash.

The place is amazing! It sells everything from powertools and every type of DIY material you can imagine to TVs and stationery, and all at a fraction of retail prices. I ended up leaving with a big assortment of goodies, including a dremel-type multitool thingy (it's not a Dremel, it's a Supatool apparently) which I have gone halves on with Daz, although it was only £12! I also got a set of drill bits, 5 packs of standard Milliput (£1.30 each, can you believe it?), two packs of superfine white Milliput (£2.50 each), some spray paint, lots of white-tack (35p a pack), a variety of types of sticky tape, packing materials and various nuts and bolts and other interesting bits and bobs.

Daz seemed to mainly be buying hundreds of pan scourers and some contraptions for making holes in tiles... something to do with building swimming pools I assume.

I've saved myself a small fortune on Milliput alone! I am now going with Daz on all his work errands to Stax.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Basket cases and sea-creatures....

My mum took early retirement last week after many years of teaching 6 and 7 year olds. She was passionate about using art and craft to teach children, and had a stock room brimming with all sorts of amazing craft goodies she had collected over the decades. Anyway, knowing that a lot of the older more obscure items would be thrown in a skip as soon as she left, she rescued me something. She knows how much I love to collect random stuff that 'will come in useful one day' so she presented me with The Arnold Basketry Kit. It looks like it was made in the late 70s (so it might even be older than me!) and it's a huge heavy box full of all kinds of wicker, raffia, coloured plastic strips, coloured wire, bits of interestingly shaped wood and big wooden beads. I've stuck some pictures below. I'm sure I will find many prop and scenery making uses for it all.

Thanks Mum - you know me so well x x x

WARNING: The next part of this post should not be read by Shelley Noble if she wants her Halfland sea-creatures to be a surprise when they arrive!

I have made two things to send to Shelley Noble for the underwater sequence in her Halfland film (her blog 'Notes From Halfland' is linked to on the right).

The first is the illegitimate love-child of a starfish and a child's abandoned woolly glove (an unusual union I grant you). It doesn't have a clever half themed name I'm afraid. It looks kinda like a Doug to me....

It is hand crocheted from yellow and purple acrylic yarn, and has a aluminium wire and epoxy putty armature and a tie-down in the bottom. It is padded with polyfibre wadding and his eyes are (fairly obviously) small stacks of buttons. Its five legs/fingers are all poseable.

The other thing I made is shoal of 'Alphabafish'. They are half letter, half fish, they are made up of the letters of the first half of the alphabet, and the blue fish spell H A L F. The photos aren't great I'm afraid.

The fish are made from square wooden beads with letters on them, mounted on aluminium armature wire with the fish shape sculpted around them in superfine white Milliput (high grade epoxy putty). The eyes started as plastic and glass beads sunk into the putty. When the putty was hard I painted the fish with Games Workshop model paints mixed to the colours I wanted. When this was dry I covered the painted area of the fish with PVA glue then added glass seed beads to the surface with a pin. When the glue dried I gave the fish another thick coat of PVA to make sure the beads stayed firmly in place and to protect the paint from damage.

I stuck the other ends of the wire securely into a blob of epoxy putty which was fixed to a ball joint I'd taken from a 'helping hands' magnifier (I made sure things were 'T' shaped so nothing could pull out of the putty). This was then all fixed to a basic ball jointed rig (made from the rest of the 'helping hands'). This should allow Shelley to animate the fish individually and as an entire shoal.

I have boxed them up and they are ready to post to California tomorrow!

Still not got around to doing my soundbite challenge animation of drunken monsters... hoping to find time, just very busy with other random stuff, like making the puppets for the short I am collaborating with Steee on.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I'm a busy busy monster

Today is mine and Daz's anniversary! Four years since we got together, one year since we got engaged. We will be doing something special at the weekend, but for tonight we are celebrating with a Chinese takeaway and a DVD.

I am absolutely exhausted at the moment because I did a half hour long talk about Asperger's Syndrome to a room of 30 psychiatrists this afternoon. I loathe public speaking, so I feel like I've just finished sitting an 8 hour exam. Urgh. Still, if it helps other folk then it's worth it, plus I get a bit of cash for doing it which I can spend on exciting stuff like a hood for my camcorder and more set building materials.

Exciting news: A Canadian monster called Sebastian has arrived in the post! He is my prize for getting third place in the TAIS Monsterjam. He is handmade, fleecy and has huge pants. He has now taken up residence on our sofa. His label says he has been going through bit of a melodramatic phase - for the past few years. He didn't seem too happy about spending a week in a box, but he has settled in well, although Daz is a little jealous of all the attention Sebastian is getting. Below is a terrible photo of me (yes, I did cut my own hair...), with Sebastian looking rather startled.

On the animation front, I am collaborating with a friend of mine, Steeeeee, sorry, Steven Hutchinson for my next animation. He is a writer, film director, musician, cameraman, film producer, occasional actor and lover of all things creative who is going to write a script and do some voice work for me. Then I'm going to animate it and we will enter it to a Bristol based short film festival and the Bacup film festival which Steee helps organise.

Next job: make a Halfland sea-creature for Shelley Noble....

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sneak preview of my music video animation...

I've finished post-production on the animated segment for the music video. I'm putting a sneak preview of it here on my blog because I'm not going to put it up on my youtube channel until the full music video has been released. This is the full 10 seconds I animated for the video anyway:

The video is for a song called 'Smile' by The Leano, a rapper and spoken word artist from London. He wanted the video to be made up of animated segments by different artists from all over the world, with the animated characters lip-syncing along.

You can find out more about The Leano here:
and here:

More behind the scenes stuff...

Here are some more photos of the behind-the-scenes work for my alien animation for the music video:

Here are the replacement mouths for the alien blobs. They are all made of black and white card with clay on the back and clay lips. The blue lips for the big blob consist of the mouth shapes for the different phonemes. Here is a tip to save time when making donut mouths - phoneme AI becomes L if you add a tongue and U becomes Th. It's not a perfect match but it's close enough, which is all you need with donut mouths. I also made a smiling mouth and a rest shape. The mouths for the little blobs are just smiles and 'ooooo' shapes.

This is the method I devised so the blobs could 'dance' smoothly. Originally the plan was to have them swaying, but because the Newplast is so hard and the blobs are so chunky, I couldn't bend their bodies side-to-side enough. Instead I decided they should turn from side-to-side - but how to do that without grating their plasticine bottoms all over my lumpy set floor?

Washers and petroleum jelly was the solution I came up with. I used rubber washers for the bigger blobs and a little steel washer for the small green blob. I coated the washers in petroleum jelly so they would glide smoothly, then put the washer over the tie-down hole on the bottom of the blob before fixing it to the set floor. It seemed to work - there was only a minimal amount of grated plasticine left on the set floor when I'd finished animating. This method also made the blobs appear to be floating slightly above the ground, and what could be more alien than that?

Here is a photo I took of the set just after I finished animating to show my terribly high-tech set up. Yes, that's TWO angle-poise lamps with daylight bulbs, I bought the second one especially for this project. I glued the lamps in position with a hot glue gun this time, after having a few problems with slowly drooping lamps and mid-animation collisions between my head and the lamps in the past. The knobs on the lamp that are supposed to tighten and hold the lamps in position are less than useless. It's going to be a fun job trying to pick all the hardened glue off the lamp joints though... ho hum. The pot on the left contains my modelling tools and the tray on the right has the replacement mouths on it. At the bottom left you can just see my camcorder on it's tripod, and left of that, out of shot, is a small foldable table with my laptop on it.

The other thing I'd like to mention is the importance of having your animation space set up in an ergonomically friendly manner. The first two animations I made, I had the table far too low which meant I spent hours stooping over and kneeling down, even shuffling around on my knees between my laptop and the puppets. Big mistake. I felt no pain whilst I was animating because I was so absorbed in what I was doing, but the next day I woke up to find that every muscle in my body ached and I physically couldn't straighten my knees or spine which made me walk like a very old goblin.

Now I have raised my animation table by about 8" so I don't have to stoop at all when I animate. Unfortunately my laptop is still on a low table, but I put a dining chair in front of it so I can sit down to check a frame instead of bending over. Now I don't get back or knee pain from animating, although I do end up with a bruised arse from all the getting up and down. Ideally I'd get a taller table so I don't have to keep sitting down every few minutes, but I don't know where I'd find a very tall, very narrow foldable table. I think next time I'll just put a cushion on the chair.

So yes, make sure your animation table is tall enough or you'll pay for it next day!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Alien Blobs!

I have almost finished making my happy alien blob puppets for the music video - they don't have any mouths yet. Luckily only the big blob speaks, so that cuts down on the number of replacement mouths I have to make. All of them have to be able to smile and go 'ooooo' though.

Here is the blob construction process so far:

Here is a photo of the raw materials - lots of Lewis Newplast in a range of colours. The greeny grey mushroomy things at the bottom are hardened epoxy putty over some nuts. These will form the core of the clay blobs and act as tie-downs, fixing the puppets to the set floor. The things in the packet at the top are rubber tipped modelling tools, which I ended up hardly using on these puppets, as the shapes where so simple.

These are the basic shapes of the alien blobs. They don't look like they took long to make, but they took all night, because Newplast is so hard. I had to knead small strips at a time to make it malleable enough to work with, yet I still ended up with sore bruised patches on my palms the next day from working with it. The price you pay for using a clay that won't go mushy under hot lights.

I thought about brushing down the surfaces with a quick-drying solvent to smooth out any lumps, bumps and fingerprints, but I decided I rather like the fact they are a bit rough and ready and imperfect - after all, most living creatures are!

For these puppets I decided to make the eyeballs out of polymer clay (Fimo Soft) instead of just painting pupils on beads. I rolled white clay into balls, baked them in the oven until they were hard, then added pupils with black clay, put pin holes in them to help with movement, then baked them again.

This is Big Blob without his mouth. His antler thingies are made of hardened Fimo Soft, and most of the details are made of Flair Plasticine (softer and more melty than Newplast, but has brighter colours).

Here is a photo of the whole colony of alien blobs. I'm pleased because they look exactly how they did in my head before I made them. The little purple one is all Flair Plasticine and has no tie-down because he is going to scoot about a bit.

Now I think it's time for a cup of tea, then back to making mouths for them...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Domo, sketchbook swapping and more very useful gifts from Daz...

Daz bought me a couple of badges last week with a cute monster character called Domo on them. I typed his name into google to find out a bit more about him and it turns out he is the star of his own stop-motion TV series, look:
He's a brown plush monster with a big mouth who sweats a lot, and he apparently started off life as a Japanese TV station mascot appearing in animated channel idents, and now he has his own show in the US on Nickelodeon. Anyway, I think he's rather endearing.

Other news:
John Hankins (castlegardener), the animator who sent me the samurai puppet has had an inspired idea for an international sketchbook swap which I am excited to be taking part in. Basically 10 animators from around the world buy a sketchbook each. You do five drawings then mail your sketchbook to the next person in the circle, who does five more sketches, then mails it on again and so on... Several months later each artist gets their own sketchbook back, filled with sketches by every artist taking part. I am between Nofby (Newcastle, UK) who sends the sketchbooks to me, and Emmyymme (Winnipeg, Canada) who I post the books on to. I think it's going to be a really interesting and hopefully it will be the first of many more sketchbook swaps.

I mentioned in a previous post about my boyfriend always surprising me with unusual yet very useful gifts. Well last week he excelled himself by coming back from a work trip to the big trade wholesale store with two packs of superfine white milliput (the stuff that's usually most expensive) and a pint bottle of Copydex (liquid latex). What more could a woman ask for? :)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Woohoo woohoo, I won a monster!

My grim guesthouse short (the monster under the bed animation) won third prize in the Toronto Animated Image Society monsterjam competition! I have no idea why the judges picked me - I am sure there were lots and lots of animations that were better than mine, Grant's included - but nevertheless I came third.... despite the fact I've never even been to Canada!

I won a Monster Factory handmade plush monster toy, which is very exciting too, especially as they are one of the companies that inspired me to start making my own woolly monsters, long before I even thought about trying to animate them. Rather fitting prize really. I am eagerly awaiting my parcel from Canada containing something cute and monstrous...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Alien scenery and plants...

The alien plants are finished, and I've nearly finished the set for my alien animation.
Here are the alien plants, all latexed up and shiny and bobbly:

Then there is the planet surface, which is almost finished (the photo was taken whilst parts of it were still wet):

The large hill is polystyrene cut into a vague hill shape with a hot wire tool, the smaller hills are crumpled newspaper. I stuck these to a sheet of particle board, then made a paper-mache 'clay' by soaking shredded newspaper in a mixture of PVA glue and water, mixing occasionally with my hands until it had a texture like wet clay. I spread an unever layer of this over everything, then when it was slightly drier I smoothed PVA over the surface with my hand to smooth and seal it. All in all it took about 1 litre (that's 2 pints) of PVA and 4 free local newspapers.

I bought some emulsion paint tester pots - fireside (a dark rich red), sundried tomato (a darkish orangey red) and classic red (bright post-box red). When the planet surface was dry, I painted it with the three shades of red in a blotchy manner. When that dried I made a mixture of PVA glue and dark red paint and spread on a thick layer before sprinkling 'coarse iron ore ballast' (from a hobby shop) onto it. Before the glue dried fully (but dry enough to stick the ballast in place) I painted on a thin layer of watered down PVA/paint mixture to firmly fix it, and make the colour of the ballast match the painted surface more. When that was dry I painted on a 'dirty wash' (black drawing ink, red drawing ink, a little dark red paint and quite a bit of water) so it would sink into the recesses on the set and make them darker. After that, I dry brushed a little bright 'classic red' paint across the surface to highlight the texture.

I might be adding some blue crystal clusters on the surface too, but I'm not sure yet.

I've also done the sky, which is purple:

It is a sheet of white foamboard (still 2 for 1 at the craft shop - woohoo!) which I took into the back yard and covered in spray paint. I used mostly spray paint I had left over from my student days when I worked with it a lot. I used navy blue, burgundy red, metallic purple, dark purple and light violet. The photo isn't too good because I took it when the paint was still wet, and very reflective.

Next it's onto puppet building...

Friday, June 6, 2008

More prop and scenery construction

I have my first commission, woohoo! It's a short (less that 15 seconds) slot for a music video. I've been given total creative freedom, so I am having a lot of fun with the set and puppet designs. I am setting it on an alien planet, so I can go wild with the plants and scenery which, for me anyway, is all very exciting!

I have also been constructing props and scenery for the short I am planning to make with the samurai puppet that John Hankins sent me. This project is currently on hold though until I finish the commission. I made John a rather endearing puppet and sent it to him the other day, but I can't say any more about it until it arrives in Hawaii because I don't want to spoil John's surprise.

Here are some photos of the scenery I have made so far for the samurai animation, which will be set in a garden. Please note that I am going for a very stylised look - these aren't meant to be realistic! Sorry about the bad photos. My studio has no natural light (for animation purposes) so I took them with a flash, and they don't look great.

These are some fruit trees for the background of the scene. They are wire covered in papier-mache then painted. The foliage is made of snipped up green pan scourers, and the fruits are yellow plastic ball bearings (for shooting from BB guns).

These are ornamental rose trees made from builders 'mice' wire (usually used in reinforced concrete) wrapped round papier-mache balls, which have been painted green. Then I glued on paper leaves and ribbon roses.

Here are an assortment of background bushes. They are papier-mache again. The two on the left are covered in three shades of embroidery silk snipped up and layered with Copydex (liquid latex). The one on the right is snipped up pan scourers. The 'flowers' are pearlescent seed beeds.

This is a garden ornament or memorial of some description. It's a small plastic tub with a cotton reel, a thimble, a button and a dome headed nut glued to the top of it (all junk I have collected over the years), then painted to look like marble and bronze (sort of).

The great thing about all these bits of scenery is that they are made of junk and very cheap materials. My boyfriend gave me a bucket of steel wire 'mice' as a present (other women get flowers, I get builders tools and materials - which is good because I do prefer getting random hardware) so that was free. The papier-mache is obviously just old newpapers and watered down cheap PVA glue. The green pan scourers, yellow plastic BBs and embroidery silks were bought in bulk packs from £1 shops. The silk roses were 3p each from the sewing stall on Bolton market. The most expensive material was the Copydex, which was £4 for a small bottle, but for future Copydex purchases I have found a supplier where I can buy the stuff in 1 litre and 5 litre bottles at a discount price.

I'm mid-way through making some alien plants for the commissioned animation. Here are the photos of how I made the basic structures:

These are some bobbly plants which are made from some round door knobs I got in a bulk value pack from B&Q and those useful little yellow BBs again. I had to use good old fashioned 'strong glue' for sticking the balls on, as with PVA and Copydex the set up time was too long and superglue was not tacky enough (too watery). The strong glue worked well, as it partially melted the plastic coating on the doorknobs, which seemed to increase the 'grab' and reduce the set up time of the glue. One thing I would advise - don't make 6 of these in an unventilated room like I did. After a while those little BBs looked like they were moving around of their own accord and the next morning I had a banging hangover. In future I will dig out my vapour mask to use for jobs like this!

These plants will be painted with layers of coloured liquid latex, to make them look shiny, rubbery alien plants I suppose.

This is a slightly out of focus photo of some alien trees. They are 'tumble drier balls' (£1 shop) with trunks made from wire coated in epoxy putty. As you can see, they are being painted with layers of purple liquid latex. Details will be added later with a contrasting shade of liquid latex.

I will post photos of the finished alien plants soon.

I have also made a space castle or an elaborate rocketship (or whatever you want it to be) to go in the background.

It is a bizarre combination of interesting bits and bobs I have collected over the years. Two wooden door knobs, a cedarwood moth repellant disk thingy, some wooden cocktail forks, two glue tube lids and an assortment of different beads. It was decorated with acrylic paint and plastic 'gems'.