Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Old Time Felting

Last night - err, last week - okay, fine - Last month, I dropped by a cozy little gallery by the name of Hanahou for a show with the rather weighty name Four-Ring Needle Felting Extravaganza.

The show featured the work of four artists who focus on the intense but seemingly therapeutic art of felting. Specifically, the work of Hine Mizushima who I 'collaborated' (and I use that term loosely) with on a TMBGs' music video. Basically, she made the music video for the re-booted version of "Why Does the Sun Shine?" and I dropped scenes from it in to the music video Dave Cowles and I made for the updated "Why Does the Sun Really Shine?".

Despite 'working with' Hine and being Facebook 'friends', we've never actually met before so I knew I needed to walk the block from work to check it out, give her a hug and snap some pictures.

Hine with squid!

Close-up of creatures over her shoulder -

Her Ectoplasm series -

And some fancy jellyfish! And while I'm slightly biased in my estimate of Hine's Unnatural History work being the best, the other artists, particularly Yoko Nomura's Fractured Fairy Tales -

And Moxie's Icons & Totems & Pieces of the Past were equally charming and photogenic (this is the company camera, which I might need to borrow more often)!

I particularly love needle-felting as a technique and would LOVE to employ it making puppets for a stop-motion video some day. In fact, I've toyed with the idea of a re-telling of the Owl & the Pussycat set to Jim Stafford's Spiders & Snakes using just that...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

There are planets you don't know...

The company I work at full-time is gearing to move in to a new space uptown (W. 19th, not that uptown). The result is a slight drag in workload.

Fortunately, I can log hours under 'Learning' and whip up some neat looking effects with the help of hundreds of online tutorials - really, the only trouble is deciding which one is worth tackling.

For one of my first outings, how about some science!

It's mostly solid layers with fractal noise and some expressions, paired up with a lot of adjustment layers and the mind-blowing CC Sphere Effect. Seriously. My jaw literally dropped.

Friday, April 15, 2011

You're Going Places!

The announcement of an April 25 release date for Inchworm Animation, a new animation app for the Nintendo DSi, got me thinking about the portable animation-station options out there.

Developed by Flat Black Films, which brought you the rotoscope animation in Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, Inchworm Animation has grabbed my attention as a way to make sure animation stays 'fun'. I think it's safe to stay most of us got into animation because we thought it was a 'cool' and 'fun' profession. Not to say that it still isn't (I love writing 'Animator' on forms as much as the next gal), but when you're changing the font size for the tenth time in Camp Rock 2 ads, you start to second-guess your career choice.

But video games are and always will be 'fun' and the idea of having a make-shift animation station tucked away in my bag is kind of exciting.

This helps explain my actions online this morning - while trolling Etsy, a favorite past-time during my downtime at work, I came across the Etch-a-Sketch Animator.

How had I not heard of this as a child? Why had my parent's not bought me one? Did it actually work?

I like how even with those sweet electronic beats
to back it up, "Draw it, Save it!" still sounds really lame.

A quick Youtube search turned up this great old commercial along with a few other videos of the Animator in action - enough to convince me it was worth dropping the $25. Honestly, they had me at "a dot that's hot" but the promise of "going places" with it doesn't hurt!

Of course, I could always just drop $15oo on a laptop, but will the Lenovo ThinkPad X201t play my saved Super Mario game? I'm already up to World 6!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Life Imitates Art

In a lithograph dated November 1951, M.C. Escher brought the Pedalternorotandomovens Centroculatus Articulosus into being - 'generatio spontanea' indeed!

Escher, in his own words, invented the creature "as a result of dissatisfaction concerning nature's lack of any wheel-shaped living creatures endowed with the power of propulsion by means of rolling themselves up."

"In its fully stretched position this creature can move slowly and gingerly forward, by using its six legs, over almost any type of terrain... But as soon as it needs to undertake a long journey and has the advantage of a suitable level path for the purpose, it presses its head on the ground and rolls itself up with lightning speed, pushing itself with its legs... In its rolled-up position, it has the shape of a discus, the central axis formed by the eyes on stalks.... Furthermore, it is thought to be capable of retracting its legs and freewheeling onwards (for instance when coming down a slope or going full tilt)."

In 1951, Escher invented the 'Curl-up', as its come to be called, "to fill a long-felt want". Almost 30 years later, he might not have had the need.

In 1979, Roy Caldwell observed the small stomatopod Nannosquilla decemspinosa (Rathbun, 1910) performing a feat Escher only dreamed off.

N. decemspinosa is found amongst the intertidal sands along the Pacific coast of Central and South America. Reaching a length of 23mm, the predatory marine crustacean is a 'spearer', lying in wait at the entrance to its shallow water burrow, ready to ambush any soft-bodied fish or crustacean.

As may be deduced, these incredibly small crustaceans with their thin, elongated bodies can't walk on dry land which poses a problem when the ocean waves toss them up on the beach - a problem solved thanks to evolution. Much like Escher's Pedalternorotandomovens, N. decemspinosa has the ability, when thrown up the beach, to curl-up around itself repeatedly, 'somersaulting' back to the shallows. And by curling backwards, it becomes the only known animal capable of wheeling itself uphill (hmm... walk-cycle, anyone?).

And while there are many organisms that capable of rolling themselves in to near-perfect little balls - the pill bug, armadillo and pangolin* - very few actually use it for locomotion. In the Namibian desert, the Golden wheel spider uses it to evade predatory wasps, curling its legs in towards it's body and rolling downhill. Rolling uphill, however, is another matter.

In the end, Nannosquilla decemspinosa stands alone as an evolutionary marvel only an artist could dream up† - life evolving in to art.

*There's also this great little guy, the Armadillo Lizard.

†Unless, of course, you believe all that nonsense about the 'Fifth Day'.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jeff Scher's Studio

So long ago, I can't remember when I dropped filmmaker Jeff Scher a line, asking for some rotoscoping advice from the expert. To my surprise and delight, I was subsequently invited to stop by his studio in DUMBO for a tour.

I snapped some photos of his setup for reference, with the plan of sharing them here within the week. Then they got lost in the mess that is my personal computer.

Some spring cleaning turned up these.

I dream of the day when I can have a basement studio like this - I'll even take a loft or spare side room! Hopefully our somewhat listless apartment hunting will prove fruitful and serve up a 2BR for just this purpose.

Jeff's setup is ingenious and simple: digital or old fashion, nothing more than a projector mounted to a re-purposed stand or shelf complete with peg-bar, paints and whatever item he might need in the moment.

Some are purely decorative, perhaps inspirational.

And it's not only his setup I envy. It's the location too. Nestled between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge, the surrounding area is just as warm and full of life as the artist himself.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Working with Dave Cowles can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I get a chance to play around with some unique animation techniques and some wonderful designs (one of the bonuses of working with an overwhelmingly talented illustrator!).

My first real marionette puppet (unfortunately, un-intentional)

On the other hand, these one day shoots might be the death of me. Started shooting about 10:30AM, Sunday, wrapped 9:45PM. Three shots. Total. Once again, a HUGE thank you to Richard O'Connor and Asterisk Animation.

Makes me feel like a real puppeteer!

In the end, of course, it's all worth it. The spot is a cute little commercial for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra starring a baby grand piano. Done entirely with puppets made from cut paper, black tape and LOTS of glue of both the hot and stick variety, it was a lot of fun to put together. I'll be sure to share once it's finished.

And FYI - cats do not like lights, tripods, drop-cloths or really anything else to do with film shoots.