Saturday, September 30, 2006

There was shrinkage!!

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Yes, we have some nice shrinkage already. It's been hanging under one of my Par lights, which I hope will speed the process greatly.

I got curious about what kind of stuff other people have carved from apples and did a little digging. First thing I ran across is an awesome gallery by artist Donna Pardue of Austin, who did a whole series of pieces entirely carved from apples! She makes great use of the fact that the flesh of an apple shrinks and puckers very much like mummified flesh (of a human being). Jeffrey... she even did a Glory Hand!

There's a nice carved apple head at the bottom of this page by Jeph Gurecka.

But I've saved the best for last. This time of year everyone wants to do something Halloweeny, including professional sculptors. There's a guy named Ray Villafane who'se a regular poster over at the Sculptor's Forum who likes to carve pumpkins... but not into Jack-O-Lanterns like every neighborhood kid can. He makes them into incredible relief-carved masterpieces of 3d realism! The pic below will transport you to his realm of magicalness:

Try not to drool on your keyboards folks!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Insane inspiration

This is just one of many many images I discovered through the blogs of a guy named Aeron who happened by here last night and left a comment under my last entry. I clicked his name to see his profile, and found he has several blogs, all loaded with intense surreal stuff... it was like opening a door into the Twilight Zone! I added three new links to his blogs:

Fantastic Animation

Monster Brains


He actually has more blogs... you can fimnd them in the links to these blogs, as well as loads of other sites. Too much to explore in one night! I foresee many hours of exciting web spelunking in the days to come!

What's better than a little head?

It's time to carve apple heads again!

Do you remember this Shrunken Apple Head kit from the '70s? I sure do... it was one of the coolest craftsy things my mom had me and my sister do together in the dinette (actually we always called it the Booth.... dinette is such a dainty word!). I honestly don't remember if she bought the kit (but that box sure does bring back memories.... we either had it or I spent a long time looking at it in the store) but I remember carving a face into a big juicy apple and watching that sucker slowly shrivel and shrink and turn all gnarly and brown! It turned out beautifully... or should I say uglily. I just jammed some hemp cord in for hair that I had untwisted. That thing lasted for... well geeze, I think I still have it somewhere actually! It finally went from brown to black though, and doesn't look as good as it used to. It served as the inspiration for my witch puppet head:

I've tried a few more times to make apple heads, but wasn't succesful for various reasons... usually because I just started too damn late! It's just no good if it isn't done by Halloween dammit! So this year I'm starting now. Another problem I had once was with mold. I remember the poor little head turned all fuzzy and white and collapsed in on itself before it was dried out. That one was sitting in a dish on top of the refrigerator where I hoped the warmth would hep it dry... this time it hangs!
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Here's my victim. I'll set to work with various cutting implements and show what I've got tomorrow. I hope some of my cohorts decide to do the same and we can compare heads come the witching season!

Here's a site with directions for making them - not that it's very difficult, but it's sometimes nice to see a step by step tutorial, plus there's a formula for a brew to soak them in if you want the apple not to turn browm. Personally I prefer brown. If you do a web search, there are lots of other sites showing slightly different techniques, and some list different formulas to soak in. Specifically, some use pure lemon juice and salt, with no water.

You can make these into dolls, or even stopmo puppets if you want. Voltaire made shrunken apple heads for his skeleton puppets for his Halloween spot on the Sci-Fi Channel.

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Here's my carved monstrosity, ready for drying!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

unposted progress

Last night I actually did finish dipping all the arms... just hardly seemed worth blogging about. Don't think I'll accomplish anything tonight though - Kill Bill just came in, gotta veg out and absorb the Tarantinian goodness! I was going to watch it earlier, but All That Jazz was on (twice). Incredibly brilliant movie!

The slip casting latex came in today too... what a disappointment! It's as thin as the dipping latex, or nearly so! Well, at least now I know.


Ended up putting knuckles on all the puppets while parts of Kill Bill were on that I'd already seen during its recent heavy rotation on TNT. Man Jeffrey, you ain't a kiddin'! That's not easy. Most of them look like mutant knuckles. I'm hoping I can fix it, at least somewhat, with another drop or two on each knuckle. We'll see. Oh, and for this I used the latex I had put the thickener in before, that turned out all lumpy. Doesn't matter whn you're just dolloping out drops one at a time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Monday, September 25, 2006

Got latex?

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I decided to go ahead and try the dipping latex. Now that I've wrapped the fingers with thread and smoothed out the contours of the arms, all they really need is a few layers anyway... no need for a lot of thick filler to hide all the defects (though I wish the defects would magically disappear!). Since I had mixed half of my new bottle of dipping latex with thickener in an old latex jar, the bottle was too low to dip the arms directly into... I had to find a tall narrow jar.

Man, so many problems! Hairs have a way of magnetically attracting themselves to an arm right after you pull it out of the latex and sticking to it.... little air bubbles all over the place, and most annoying of all the rubber likes to pool up in the areas between fingers, like a webbing. When you first dip one you have to hold it over the jar for a while and let the excess latex drip off the fingertips. You also have to take a small nail and pop the bubbles and pull the latex out of those spots between the fingers. Careful not to touch it anywhere, or to let it touch the edge of the table when you hang it there to dry! Everything that can go wrong will... I had a nice sized spider go skittering toward one I had just hung.... had to make a sudden-death swipe to save the arm (lost the spider).

The thicker slip casting latex should show up in a day or two - that should be better, at least in some respects. I've already dipped some of these arms 4 times and it's not thick enough yet. I want the ribbing from the wrapped thread to disappear completely.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Smooth move dude!

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Well, the latex isn't in yet, so I decided to spend a night smoothing out all the arms a little better. I mixed up some epoxy putty (yes, more epoxy putty!) and put a little bit next to each joint, on both sides of the wrapped string. With wet fingers I smoothed it down to create a nicer profile for each arm. In some cases the string stood out quite a bit, now it's actually slightly recessed.... I think it looks better.

Oh yeah, and I also played around with "replace color" in Photoshop......

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's a wrap

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I know one day I'll be glad I took all these pictures! After these guys are dipped in latex I won't be able to remember what they looked like at this stage anymore. Anywho, all the arms and fingers are now wrapped and ready for dippin'. Still gotta figure out what I'm gonna do with the necks, and gotta foam up the legs and torsos. Then I get to play tailor.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Cosmo is ready for his closeup

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D-oh! Ok, you know what.... why didn't I think before to use the thicker thread for fingers? Now they actually look like fingers!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fun with forearms and fingers

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Ok, this didn't work out so well! First I just dipped the arm right into the dipping latex... seemed like the thing to do, right? Wrong! The stuff is so thin it just runs off like water... it left the thinnest skin imaginable. I'd have to re-dip about a hundred times to get the right thikness, and you have to let each layer dry for like 8 to 12 hours or so. I don't have that kind of patience! So I mixed in some of my Pastemaker latex thickening powder. Ok, yeah... it thickened up the latex, but it's all lumpy and gloppy. Maybe if I had a mortar and pestle and ground it together for an hour or so it would work, I don't know. But I don't. Heh.... the forearm area was so messed up with big ugly lumps all over I tried to smooth it down with a fingertip.... big mistake! It left the result you see here, only not so bad. I decided to try to turn it into forearm hair... lucky it happened right where it did I guess, though I still might strip this layer off and start over after my just-ordered slip-casting latex comes in (should be more like the mold-builder stuff I'm used to).
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I decided from here on out I'd wrap the fingers with thread before dipping, as per the techniques Mena mentioned recently. Not only will it give the latex better grip than bare wire does, but it helps to build up a little thickness so it needs less latex dipping later. I like the idea, but I got a little discouraged when I realized I have 40 more fingers to wrap! Better get busy, huh?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Upper arms

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Decided to go ahead and sculpt upper arms from epoxy putty too, and then I can wrap the elbows same as the wrists. That way I can put some of them in short sleeves if I want to.

Also, my Dipping Latex and Latex Softener came in from Monstermakers today. Haven't messed with any of it yet, hopefully tomorrow... but man, that Dipping Latex is some thin stuff! I figured it would be about the same as the Mold Builder Latex I'm used to, which is thick and creamy... but this is as thin as water! I might need to add some thickener to it to get the consistency I want.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Day 16 - THE ULTIMATE DAY AT LAST!!! and wrapping wrists

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Tom is our model tonight. He's demonstrating the handy-dandy wrist-wrap method, so good for those liquid latex buildup puppets. This is a little technique I first saw used in Dan Anderson's Mirror Monster puppet, and then Grant used the same technique for his Vitruvius puppets. The idea is to fill in the empty space between forearm and hand with wrapped string and then cover that with liquid latex. I'm using a special method that allows the ends of the string to be tucked away down inside for neatness' sake. You start by making a loop as shown in the first pic, which you hold in place with one hand while you wrap string - loosely around and around the wrist with the other.
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I'm using a nice soft string Shelley sent me as part of a fantastic and incredibly useful fabrication kit for my birthday a few months ago (thanks Shellsies!). It's cotton, which makes it a bit absorbent... that might soak up some latex and end up being a bit stiff, but it's a soft string that will move much more freely than a hard thread. I tried an even thicker nylon wrapping string, which wouldn't absorb latex, but it was too thick and lumpy and I couldn't get a nice wrist shape with it. So I tore it off and went back to cotton - the fabric of our lives. Wrap until you have the shape you want... pay close attention to what's happening, and sometimes you might have to back off a few wrappings and re-do them to fill in an area or to bring down an area that's wrapped too high. When you're done, tuck the end through the loop as demonstrated in the second pic.
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Then pull the first end of the string, the one emerging from under all the wrappings. This will pull the end down inside, where it's out of sight and out of mind, and you don't have to worry about how to tie it off or glue it down. Then simply snip off both ends as close as possible.

You know... if I had all these puppets to do over again, there are so many things I'd do differently in hindsight. I completely overengineered these armatures. Since I ended up building the forearms out of epoxy putty anyway, there was no need to do all that intricate thread wrapping and nail cutting way back at the beginning... the stuff that was the hardest to do and that my hands have only recently recovered from! But ya live and ya learn, right? Next time I'll know... next time.....

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Day 15 - the penultimate day (and the secret to working with epoxy putty)

Did you know penultimate means "second to last"? It's true... technically the word ultimate doesn't mean "best" as everyone assumes, it means last. So tomorrow is the ultimate day of the UbaDarkLand production marathon. Making today the penultimate day. Heh... I doubt Jeffrey is ready to quit though, and I know I'm not... I'll bet I can talk him into extending this thing till the end of the month or so. And maybe Shelley will stick it out along with us. Shells? Well ok, I guess if you got some other stuff to attend to when Himself gets home... that's allowed.

Anywho, here's what I did tonight:
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All 6 of the chestblockers now have sleek, sexy forearms. Since I decided to build up the arms with latex instead of molding them in silicone, I needed to shape them pretty much how I want them to look later, only a little slimmer. I can only imagine how nasty it would have looked if I just dipped those gnarly twisted arms right into some latex.... ugh!
So... the secret to getting epoxy putty nice and smooth you ask? It's simple... H2O. Just keep a cup of water close at hand, and after you've kneaded your putty and stuck it to the work surface, dip your fingers in it. Then when you work, the putty won't stick to your skin. And you can even slide a wet finger around and get a glass-smooth finish if you want. On this arm I got a little carried away... i should definitely leave a bigger gap than that between solid areas... you don't want the wire to have to bend back and forth too many times at exactly the same spot or you create a weak point that will surely break.

Ok, I've cut a little off the end of that forearm... Tom is a lot happier. For jobs like this I like to use Kneadatite A+B putty, which has a working time of somewhere around an hour, allowing me to make decisions like this and make changes if necessary.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Day 14 - hands

Took a day off yesterday. Hey, I just noticed it was day 13.... maybe it's best I did! Tonight I'm making hands:
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The idea of the thread wrapping is to help keep the hand bones from splaying out unnaturally. All too often I've seen puppets made by beginners that don't really have hands, just fingers sprouting directly from the wrist. Grotesque abominations! And while these puppets are a bit strange looking, I don't want them to be total mutants (even though they do only have three fingers and a thumb).
I could have just packed epoxy putty in for the body of the hand, but for that wo hold the fingers all together in a tight unit and not allow the pinky or forefinger to float out to the side, it needs to be extra fat around those areas. Hope that makes sense. This way I figure the thread will hold it from drifting, and allow me to make smaller epoxy blocks. As with the last post, I'll add to this one as I get more done throughout the night.

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The hands on six puppets are epoxied now. I still need to figure out how I'm going to make hands for Tonic and Cindy Lou, but I won't be making them until after they're foamed and clothed. Man, this got scary! Extremely difficult work, and on one hqand the thread came untied and started unravelling as I worked. I just went ahead and puttied it all up anyway. Despite my efforts, most of the hands came out pretty thick and lumpy anyway. I might be able to file some of them down later though.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Day 12 - "And when you've made your secret puppet/ you will be a happy man"

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Ok, so I butchered Sting... so sue me! Here it is folks... at long last. The secret puppet. Her name is Cindy Lou, and she'll be the tiniest puppet I've ever attempted to make (that's what I was talking about before, when I said the secret puppet would be something special). This is exactly how she arrived in the box Scott sent me, along with all the other heads. Each had a foot and a half long coil of wire (three strands of 1/16" aluminum armature wire) sticking out of it, loosely coiled like this to avoid kinking. I asked him to do it like this because originally I wasn't planning to use the StopMoTech aluminum chest blocks... I was just going to make them all the simple straightforward way. Well, since for 6 of them I did use the chest blocks I ended up cutting the wire for them, but now that I'm going to work on Cindy I can show how I do it. Though simply because I'm making her so small things might be a little funky. At this point I'm not entirely sure how I'll do everything, I'm just winging it.
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Here's a size/height comparison with Mommie Dearest. This is just about how high I want Cindy to stand. She's the smallest head Scott has sculpted to date.

Ok, time for more Wiretech.

I like to use continuous strands of wire as much as possible, and make sure they're joined strongly and permanently at the intersection points. Many beginners try to join together separate pieces of wire and end up with unstable joins at shoulders and hips. Instead iIlike to run continuous strands all the way through, and then there's no way anything is going to loosen or come apart later. And when you twist them together it serves to tighten everything down(since I'm back to twisting again).
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I've decided since Cindy Lou is so small she only needs two wire strands for her arms... she doesn't need to do any heavy lifting or anything. But I want the spine and legs to have 3 wires. So here's the design I came up with.
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Can you still see what's going on? Just like the arms, each leg is one piece of wire that goes out to the foot, loops back, and at this point they're crossed at the center, just a lot of excess wire sticking out everywhere. And there's still one extra wire coming down from the spine that needs to be fastened off somehow. I always try to fasten these things at intersection areas (chest or pelvis) where they'll be locked inside a solid block of epoxy putty. But in little Cindy's case, I don't think I'll even be using epoxy putty since she's so tiny. Unless it seems like she needs it.
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Tiny puppets call for tiny tiedowns! I'm using my smallest ones here... 6/32 square nuts. Notice I have a loop of wire running under each nut and another loop over the top, trapping the nut in between like a sandwich. I've got the screws in place to hold everything together while I epoxy them in place.
Photobucket - Video and Image HostingOk, she's all twisted up now. I'm not entirely happy... I wish the legs were at least twice as long, and she suffers from the same problem they all do... huge feet! Well, at least they're all consistent. I think she'll be wearing some big clodhoppers. Oh, and like Buster, she can't bend her knees dammit! When will I learn??!! My excuse is that it's so small... everything should have been scaled down more. Two wires would definitely have been enough for such short legs. Oh well... next time I'll know. If nothing else, I'm getting a lot of experience here!


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I got bold and cut off her feet, hoping I can salvage enough wire to tie in some new stuff and extend the legs a bit. I don't know... it's pretty crazy, all mixed up and stuff... I'm not even sure exactly what I did! But it feels sturdy enough to work. I'm trying a different approach for attaching the tie-downs this time... note the twin loops one inside the other... should keep the feet a little more petite.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Day 11 - A New Hoppy

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Now that's more like it! Gonna wait till my Monstermakers order (with rubber gloves) comes in to do the epoxy pelvis block.
Ok, screw waiting. I grabbed a discarded glove... they tend to get turned inside-out when you peel them off. I just put it on inside-out. There was a thin crust of epoxy putty on the forefinger and thumb, but it just made it feel kinda weird, didn't really cause any problems. Now he's done.

Two more

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It's Betty and Hoppy. Betty doesn't need tiedowns in her feet because she'll remain seated throughout the entire performance, and Hoppy... well, he needs tie-downs all over because he likes to bounce off the walls and ceiling a lot. He's a bit wired.

This isn't my progress report for today, just wanted to post last night's work and put names to the faces. I think I'll make a new body for Hoppy.... I wanted the legs ridiculously short, but I think they're too short! Man, when I think about how painstaking this has been because of the aluminum chest blocks.... I could have made all these armatures in a few days if they were all simple one-piece designs, and I would have been able to more freely design them. I think in the future I'll go with much simpler armatures and use smaller nuts (regular hex nuts or square nuts) for the tie-downs. Or better yet just drill and tap some aluminum plates. And I wish I had used thinner nails for the bones. Those forearms especially get pretty thick in paces.... that's gonna be a bitch later.

Also, today I ordered some liquid latex from Monstermakers. After all my experimenting with the Dragonskin, I think I'm going to use latex buildup instead, because it's so much easier to paint. I also ordered a very interesting product I've never tried called Latex Softening Agent. Should be fun to play around with anyway.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Day 10 - wiretech talk

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Veronica is a barmaid at Cosmo's tavern. That's Cosmo beside her. Oh, he now has the lower body I originally made for Huck... the weird long torso thing works better on him (partly because he'll be wearning an apron and standing behind the bar most of the time!).

I'd like to walk you through the process I use to make the lower bodies. There are a few techniques I want to share that I've picked up over the years... and trust me, I made a lot of mistakes along the way and learned a lot of what not to do!

For starters, here's the way I lock the wires into the little pieces of tubing:

I always like to make some kind of hook or loop in a wire where it will be embedded in epoxy - this creates an actual physical bond, a mechanical join that is much stronger than the adhesive itself. A straight wire embedded in a block of epoxy can easily turn or even pull straight out. I defy anyone to spin these wires inside the tubing, or to pull them out!

Every bend you put in a wire should serve some purpose... often it can serve two or more at the same time. By making these two little hooks I effectively double the thickness of the wire inside the tubing, almost filling the available space, as well as creating that physical lock.

Here I've added a third wire (no hook in this one... I find three hooks just won't fit inside the tubing). The original pair of wires are each about two feet long, the third one is only about 5 inches. You'll see why in a minute. Everything is kwickwelded solidly in place.

I wrap the short wire around at the point where the pelvis is to be located. I only touch the wire with my fingers when I'm bending and twisting it.... you don't want to put any nicks in it by working it with pliers or anything. Every nick is a weak point where the wire can easily break during animation. But it is ok to use pliers in areas where the wires will be embedded in epoxy, like here or when I made the loops. No way I could do THAT with my bare handses!

I mark the length I want a leg to be and place a thumb nut there that has been filed around the groove to rough it up so the epoxy can find purchase.

This is my clever little trick to make sure the legs are exactly the same length (just thought of it now... this is the first time I've used it). I used a thumb screw to secure another thumb nut to the first one, then wrap the wire around it the same way. Once this is done I remove the screw.

Hope you can make out what's going on here. What I did was bend each wire down the other leg, so each leg now has three wires. I wrapped the wires around the thumb nuts... there's just enough room for two loops of wire there. Then I tie the wires off as you can see and cut off the excess making sure to use the pliers to tuck the cut end nicely down where it won't poke out and cause any trouble. It will be embedded in kwikweld in a moment. All that's left then is to kwikweld the thumb nuts securely in place and mix up a blob of epoxy putty for the pelvis block. I use a steel filled epoxy putty that happens to look just like the (also steel-filled) kwikweld. Once everything is all set up then I twist the legs and the spine, which has the effect of tightening everything down nicely. Obviously this was for a puppet that doesn't have the rectal tiedown for barstool attachment. If it did I would have attached the thumb nut to the short wire at the beginning of the process. I could have made this in about 15 minutes, but making the tutorial added about an hour! I've got two more bodies to make... I'll see if I can get them done yet tonight before hitting the sack. Really getting tired of messing with all this wire and goop!



Finished the last two... now all the armatures are complete except for the secret puppet.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Day 9 - one more lower body done

That pretty much says it all. Sorry, no pic tonight. 3 more to go, and then I unleash the secret puppet. Yes, I said secret puppet. Anyone who does math (and cares enough to actually pay attention to all my prattling) would have noticed a few discrepancies in my posts. I said Scott Radke sculpted 8 heads for me, and yet I've only ever shown 7. I'm saving this one for last because it's going to tax my puppetsmithing skills to the utmost... I needed as much paractice as I could get before tackling this one! Ok... cliffhanger-ish enough?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

3 wise guys

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I tested Tom a bit and decided the legs and spine are strong enough after all. He wobbles a bit because the head is so freakin' heavy, but he can hold himself up on one leg in a pretty extreme pose... leaning all the way over till his head is like an inch from the table. Essentially all that twisted wire is like a long spring under the heavy bobblehead, so it means after re-positioning the puppets for each frame I'll just have to wait till they stop bobbling!

So I went ahead and made Huck the same way... no leg bones. I still need to make some epoxy putty pelvic blocks for them, to secure all that wire together at the groinal area and to provide a solid 'grab point' that can be easily felt and held under the padding and the clothes. It's always a good idea to have the chest and pelvis be big solid blocks inside the puppet so you can easily move them.

Day 8 - halfway point and my first completed armature

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Tom says hi. He has three wires in his spine and each leg, but he thinks he might need another one. Since there are no bones there the wire is weaker. I was originally planning to put bones in his legs, but geez... they're just so short!! I had planned to test out my new hybrid method, which involves leaving the wires untwisted only where the bones will lay... then adding the bones using the thread-wrapping/Kwikweld method as before (only the thread doesn't extend past the ends of the bone), and then I was going to twist in between bones. That way the straight wire makes a nice trough for the bone to lay in, keeping things neat and compact, and twisting tightens everything down and does away with... um... that complicated problem that I can't seem to explain very well. ;)

I think I'll go ahead and put tiny little bones in Huck's legs when I make him later tonight. Huck is Tom's friend and the tallest of the puppets.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Day 7 - A show of Hands

Ok well, that title would work better if I actually posted a pic showing all the puppets with their hands finished and attached, but I'm beat. I worked for like 4 straight hours tonight, listening to Kansas for most of it. I can't tell you how good it felt to finish up that last hand!

Tomorrow.... lower bodies. The end is in sight for these armatures... and in the next few days I foam them and get ready to start tailoring them up.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Day 6... didn't do nuttin' honey.

Well, not quite true... I made one hand, and a tutorial:
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And here's the promised writeup about the problem I discovered with the thread-wrapped wire method of armature construction.
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See... this pic shows the most comfortablest way for three wires to nestle together.... the cross-section would look triangular. And I've found three 1/16" Almaloy wires is a perfect combo for most parts of the puppets I'm making. The triangular configuration is a thing of beauty and much economy.... it's the way they naturally want to lay anyway when you start wrapping... it's a lot harder to get them to lay out side by side (flat cross-section like a ribbon).
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BUT... Here's the problem with it. All I did was bend the wire-thing here, and see what happened? The wire that was behind the other two popped out between them, and now it's gone from triangular profile to flat profile. This is what happens inside the puppet when you bend a joint if the wires were in triangular configuration to start with... and to complicate matters, even if you originally made it in flat configuration, it will shift from handling. In other words, it's constantly shifting between the two configurations...... and this causes stress. I can tell by the popping sound I hear when it happens! At first I didn't know what was going on... I though something was breaking, but obviously nothing was.... so I examined it closely and bent it back and forth a few times, and then I saw it happen. See, the problem is that when the wires are in triangular configuration and you bend them, the wire in the back would need to stretch... or else pop through between the other two. When you go with the good old fashioned twisted wire method, they're sort of springlike, so the back one actually can stretch a bit, and the front ones can compress a little too. Crazy stuff!

This doesn't mean the thread-wrapping method is crap or anything... it's just a different alternative. I believe both methods have their strengths and weaknesses (a bit too tired to pontificate any deeper on it right now). And the popping-through thing doesn't jhappen all the time, possibly it's only on certain joints depending on how they were made, I'm not sure. It's just something I noticed and wanted to share.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Day 5... Kwikweld saves the day! And a sort of tutorial

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There's something I just love about the way my work area looks with these partial puppets laying around amid tools and scraps of wire and thread etc. Had to share. And I think my favorite part is all the red thread hanging off eveything. They almost look like marionettes! Above are 2 arms in the first stage of their evolution.
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I've kwikwelded them into their tubes, making sure the knotted silk thread is pushed down inside and firmly embedded ino tthe ugly grey stuff. This anchors the thread, making the next steps possible... I don't think I could even attempt the next part if the thread was loose and slipping around. The thin wrapping wire is what holds the 3 strands of wire together as one entity as i work, it's discarded after the endcaps are secured in place. On the left you can see I've marked the positions for the two 'bones' (actually sections cut from nails). And at the far end is a completed arm.
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Hey... can somebody give me a hand? (Sorry Shelley... I'm a jokethief!) You can see how everything fits together. I've tried to maximize the area of joinage. Look back and forth from this pic to the one below, you'll see what's going on. Below I just loosely wrapped the thread to semi-secure the hand, trying to leave enough clear area so you can see what's happening. I'll wrap it more when I actually secure it for real.
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I've got all the arms done now, still need to make more hands. And I've accepted that I'm just not a Dave Sim or a Nick Hilligoss. After getting home from work I can't realistically expect to spend a solid 8 hours working. Hell, I'm lucky to get two full hours done most nights. If I can do that 5 nights a week, then I'm making some good steady progress. At this point I'll be happy if I get all the puppets done and dressed by the end of the 16 day marathon (though I might not get all the clothes done... I think that's going to be the hardest part). Anything else is a bonus.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Day 4

Damn.... ran out of my magic elixir (JB Kwikweld). Only got 3 more arms done! So now I'm sitting here cranking out little tiny hands to attatch tommorow, when I expect a shipment including more of it. Probably would have come in today if not for the holiday. Heh... labor day. Everybody I know still has to go to work and labor, it's only the union and government employees who got the day off.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Production philosophy and my newest inspiration

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I recently discovered Cerebus... Dave Sim's incredible self-published comic book. I love the way it's drawn - I love the way it's written - I love the ongoing artistic/philosophical/social commentary (aside from a few incendiary issues he has). I bought the massive tome called Jaka's Story - widely considered one of the best parts of the series, and I loved it. I've ordered a few more of the books, and while waiting for them to come in I wanted more Sim and more Cerebus, so I went websurfing. And I found That link will take your directly to the Letters From the President page, collecting Sim's writing from the back of the issues. He's brilliant (if somewhat twisted) eloquent and deeply thoughtful, as well as a powerful and insightful observer of human nature (which let's remember aint always pretty folks!). Ok, so in the article called Tangents he went completely overboard on a misogynistic shooting spree (hey, some of what he says makes perfect sense... but yeah, he does mave female issues).

I've read all the articles now, and what really strikes me is the ongoing sense of how hard he's working. He always mentions it, and the fact that he had to find time to write up each article in between the work it takes to produce a self-published comic book. His background artist Gerhard (who does some mind-blowing ultradetailed and often surreal drawings behind Sim's characters) lives in the same house, and is always working in the background (he gets mentioned frequently too, always laboring away as Sim writes). What a monumental accomplishment! Two guys who are doing what they love most sitting in a house day after day after day cranking out drawing after drawing after drawing, scratching out line after (ok, sorry, getting carried away)... and the result is the longest-running series ever done by the same creative team all the way through. Reading what he has to say about what it takes to do this has changed my outlook on production... it made me realize that ALL the comic books I've ever read - love em or hate em - only existed because they were finished... on time, under deadline, and complete, month after month after month (well, certain Image titles excepted). The ones that weren't well... you've never seen them. Because they don't exist outside of someone's imagination. Ok, I think I got my point across. Below is a paragraph excerpted from his article on "whether to draw comic books or become a plumber". It applies to making stopmo flicks as well:

"To start self-publishing in this day and age you have to be prolific and you have to be able to compete with the best work out there. At the time that I started Cerebus, writing and drawing comic books was something that you did until you could do something else. There are still many creators who are here temporarily, until they are lured away by Hollywood or whatever else. But, face facts. Wendy Pini is not going away. Neither am I. Neither is Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell, Jeff Smith, Colleen Doran, Steve Bissette, Larry Marder. (footnote) The greatest mistake you can make is to say that your work is better than a lot of the shit that's out there. No doubt. But being better than shit is not exactly a shining credential. Do you have anything to say? I mean, if I read one more proposal for a post-apocalyptic nightmare society ruled by remnants of a blah blah blah, I'm going to throw up. I mean, who cares? Likewise two hundred issue story-lines that consist of a handful of character sketches and a rough outline. I mean, so what? If someone comes up to me with fifty pages in photocopy form and the last page is better than the first, I tell them what Mike Kaluta told me in 1973; 'You're on the right track. Keep going.' I just got in the first issue of a comic called Strange Attractions ($3.00 plus postage - Retrografix, 2130 Williams #3, Bellingham, WA 98225). I read it and enjoyed it. I could follow the story no problem and when I got to the end, I wanted to know what happens next. If the work doesn't have that effect on you, it's largely wasted effort. The work has to come first. Until you've produced a couple of hundred pages, you aren't going to know if you have the aptitude, ability or inclination to do comics for a living. The work has to come first. Once you have produced a couple of hundred pages, you have to move to the next level, doing a number of things simultaneously; producing the work, reproducing it in some fashion (photo-copies, mini-comics, booklets), circulating it and promoting it. All of those things. Simultaneously. If you produce the work but fall behind on reproducing it; if you produce and reproduce it but fail to circulate it; if you produce it, reproduce it, circulate it but fail to promote it; nothing (I repeat, nothing) is going to happen. Chester Brown did a number of issues of Yummy Fur as a mini-comic and then became too big to be confined to mini-comics. That effect will happen only if you are productive, only if you circulate your work and only if you promote it. The work has to come first. If your family comes first, or your girl-friend, or your wife or your kids or socializing or drinking or drugs, you are better off learning how to be a plumber. The work has to come first. If you have a natural talent and you produce a couple of hundred pages in the course of a year, you will get better and things will start to happen for you. If it takes you five years to produce a couple of hundred pages your improvement will be slower and you will find it almost impossible to make a living. There is nothing wrong with having any of those other things as top priorities in your life. Most people do. Almost all people do. The only way to make an impact in the comic book field is to be an exception to that rule. It there is anything you would rather do than sit down and write and draw a really good page, that thing is going to be an impediment. The world is full of distractions. Take two weeks and decide to do a page a day; pencilled, inked and lettered. If you miss a day, look at what you did instead. Whatever caused you to miss doing a page that day is an impediment to your career.

Look at the impediment.

Look at the work.

Make a choice."

UbaDarkLand production race - day 3

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Alas, all I got done were 4 arms nearly to completion... still no hands. But I did cut and file my nails as you can see... and they were hard as steel! That was a huge job in itself considering I used only the tools you see here... should have busted out the Dremel! My hands still hurt.

The other 7 arms tomorrow complete witjh hands(day off... it's catchup time) - plus an explanation of my new production philosophy and a taste of my latest inspiration. Till then.......

Oh, and I changed the name of the race to reflect that our buddy Jeffrey of Ubatuber Productions has joined the race! He's working furiously on his entry for the upcoming round at StopMoShorts. Anybody else care to join in the marathon? Grant... Sven? It means posting daily (or nearly daily) progress reports till the bitter end.... 13 days from now.

Excuse time... I would have got the hands put on those arms, but an email came in announcing that Leevi had uploaded his newly completed film HarmoniCa to the bin at StopMoShorts, and I went in to post it for him (and of course I had to watch it!). Took the better part of half an hour. But wow, what a great film, even at the small resolution!