January 2008 archives

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January 30, 2008

leap and the net will appear

by gl. at 1:55 am

linda's got a great post up: she's quitting her dayjob to become a full-time artist!

linda's a firecracker: she's got a ton of energy and i can only imagine what she'll do now that she doesn't have to fit in everything after work and on weekends. but she's an immensely talented encaustic artist: whatever she does, i'm sure it will be fabulous!

i also adore the leap year symbolism. i think that would be a great tradition: every leap year, decide what you want to leap into, or how you want make the leap into something you haven't felt ready to try before.

go, linda, go!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: links, miscellany

January 27, 2008


by gl. at 7:49 pm

last night we attended portland's monthly "performance playground," scratchpdx. sven has attended these events previously because he knows people in them who are a part of his theatre improvisation group. i was really surprised to see how many people attended this event at the hipbone studio (that's where the rebel rabbit craft fair is held, too: what a flexible space!).

scratchpdx is the kind of event that can host a variety of artists & arts, including experimental filmmakers, santur dulcimer musicians, stand-up comedians, modern dancers with live DJs, acting collectives and an indescribable character named "mr. happy pants." there was even a little singing & swing dancing by the hosts.

i really enjoyed the structure of the performances and the variety. i especially liked how you could ask questions of the performers and they could ask questions of you.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: exhibits & events

January 25, 2008

simultaneous gocco project: winter solstice

by gl. at 5:54 pm

earlier this year shu-ju created the "simultaneous gocco project" for the gocco-printers list. even though i couldn't participate at that point it was so much fun to watch the others contribute that i thought it should be a seasonal event. shu-ju thought that was an excellent idea -- if i managed it. ;)

fortunately, teaching my first gocco class coincided with the next simultaneous gocco project in december, and since i had to create a demo for the class i had an easy way to get involved in the project.

i've always wanted to create cards based on the crest for my family's scottish clan, mckay. my family is very interested in that geneological branch, especially my dad. michael's dad made my dad a stained glass window with the crest a few years ago: it was a huge hit.

[gocco screen and finished card]

these are printed on a faintly patterned, thick card stock with a very light gloss that has not been folded, so they're more like note cards or postcards. in fact, this is from a batch of blank postcards i inheirited from chas when i got his letterpress.

so the only problem is that i had already sent my dad christmas presents by the time i made this and his birthday isn't till october, so i have a long time to wait until i can give these to him. :) still, i'm glad that's an idea that's now out of my head and onto the page.

the next simultaneous gocco print project will be in march. i have no idea what i'll be making yet...

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: printing

January 22, 2008

craft night w/ michael5000

by gl. at 11:59 pm

last week michael5000 invited some people over for craft night. sven did more mending and i brought along a shirt with a little stain i wanted to cover up and one of the patches from the zine symposium in august.

[maybe i should wear this heart on my sleeve]

[revolution begins here]

i've never attached a patch before, but for some reason i wanted to stuff this. i was doing really well until the very end, when i decided it had too much stuffing and i had to resew it. i've fray-checked the edges; i hope it makes it through the washer okay!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: exhibits & events, miscellany

January 19, 2008

fish puppet for shelley

by sven at 8:00 am

fish puppet

At Thursday's "virtual open studio," I built a fish puppet for stopmo co-conspirator Shelley Noble.

At the outset, I had more "Halfland"-ish ideas: where the scales would have letters on them, or be made from materials from our collage bins... But the scale of the puppet (uh, size) -- and how lovely it was turning out -- made me ditch those concepts. No big deal. It looks like a puppet version of the fishes I've been painting for years. It's neat just getting to see a 3D version of these.

And regardless of how the project ultimately turned out, it's actually done. Can't knock that, either.

A bit about the construction. The body was made from a bit of scrap wood. I cut off the corners, filed it into shape, and sanded it down.

The side fins and tail are detachable. I drilled holes into the body and hot-glued telescoping K&S in. The larger piece is 7/32", the smaller is 3/16". The purpose of this: the plug-ins serve as rigging points if you want to have the fish suspended in mid-air.

The struts of the fins are made from 1/16" aluminum armature wire. The fin webbing is athletic underwrap -- two layers, which sandwich the wires. The wires are attached to the underwrap with Fabri-Tac glue. So... All the fins and the tail are fully posable for animation.

The whole thing is painted with acrylics. The scales were made with a hole-punch and cardstock that I painted on both sides. I wrapped a little extra underwrap around the places where the K&S plug-ins are, just to disguise them a bit better.

Incidentally, I'm really happy with how the photo turned out. The backdrop is made from two sheets of scrapbooker paper. It's sitting on top of a light table, and I'm pointing a desk lamp at it, which has been covered with a sheet of typing paper. Essentially I'm flooding the scene with diffuse light from all directions.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: stopmo

January 18, 2008

artist's way open studio (january)

by gl. at 11:42 pm

last night i hosted a "virtual" open studio, so named because it all happens at our own homes. last year i did this because the hill outside our house was icy and i didn't want people coming here, but i also didn't want to waste the art momentum & resolutions of the new year!

i was so delighted by the wide range of people who attended and the big range of arts i wanted to do it again! plus, while i very much enjoy encouraging people to make art at the studio, i also think it's important to make art in your own space. this year the morning started off snowing, so i was very glad to have scheduled a virtual event.

one of the great things about the virtual open studio is the creative stories and support we share throughout the day. though pictures were due by 9 p.m., people checked in and sent pictures whenever they could fit it in their day, which is something i'd like to encourage people to do whenever they want to make art. no need to wait for a specific date or time; travelling to an official art-designated station is not required. just do it, wherever you are and with whatever you have!

so after dinner, sven & i decided to work on creating creatures for shelley noble's film, halfland: "The undersea door to Halfland is now open. You too are invited to craft, in anyway you'd like, a small sea creature of some kind; fish, seaweed, shellfish, starfish, anything between 1 to 4 inches long ( 25mm to 100mm), that can be used in the underwater scene (film 1; scene 2 in the outline linked below) early on in the film."

i wanted to create a little stuffed "scarlet starfish" while sven wanted to create an "svenfish" stopmo puppet:

[scarlet starfish: front]

[scarlet starfish: back]

[svenfish: those fins can be animated!]

but everyone at the virtual open studio created awesome things! only one major snafu: dreamhost snarfed 90% of my emails about this event before i could write about it, so i had to ask people to resend their pix & conversations. ouch! still, i think the virtual open studio will be an annual event. we may not always make props for friends' films, but it's nice to work in the studio together making things! and knowing other people are also out there playing with art at the same time is exciting and fun.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way

January 15, 2008

vicki lind's "don't think! paint!"

by gl. at 11:51 pm

we hosted our third round of "don't think! paint!" and i was surprised that we got two out-of-state participants for this class: one from denver, the other from louisiana. for vicki's last class we had someone from california. it looks like everyone both near & far had a good time, though. the sun came out for the first time in a week, so it seemed like an especially cheerful group. they even ate all the snacks! i serve a plate of apples, rice crackers, almonds & havarti cheese for every workshop, and for those that are scheduled over lunch, i refill the plate and bring in olives & truffles.

the studio got a microwave for christmas, both as a way to serve workshops that are scheduled over lunch (since we don't have anything in walking distance) and to complete our vision of using the studio as a personal retreat and guesthouse. sven rigged up a way for it to stabilize on top of the refrigerator using washers and labels (really!) and it worked fantastically for this this class.

one funny thing happened: the kitchen is our primary art supply storage space, so we use the oven to store the letterpress typecases; the refrigerator to store clay, epoxies & sometimes gocco screens/supplies; and the dishwasher holds our assortment of various art dishes that are to be used for art and not eaten from: baskets, paper plates, assorted jars & boxes, lids, yogurt cups, milk jugs, condiment cups, etc. someone in this workshop wanted to be helpful and set the dishwasher running, so by the time i noticed it was too late to salvage anything made out of paper (and some of the wood boxes are a little warped). everything else had an inch or two of water in it. i had to lay towels all over the tables, take everything out of the dishwasher and let it dry out on the towels. oops! we really ought to disconnect the water there, perhaps. :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: classes & workshops

January 13, 2008

print gocco basics at the iprc

by gl. at 10:48 pm

it's been a busy time for gocco printing! gillian from half-empty press recommended me to teach print gocco basics at the iprc. i was a little nervous because i've printed a lot more on food than paper!

so after a bazillion questions and shu-ju's blessing, i taught gocco in december and january. fortunately, they both went well! the first class had wanted to do more fabric printing but the fabric kit had been misplaced, but even so i could tell i had some gocco converts. in the last class, the timing didn't feel as smooth as the first class, but i think it was still successful. ideally, some of the students from both classes will end up in shu-ju's advanced class later this month. :)

one of the things i'm really proud of is that i let everyone do their own project (most other iprc printing classes, including gocco, have them working in teams). i brought in my own gocco to keep the ratio of students/goccos low, because i think you learn things better and are more invested in the process when you get to work with your own art or on your own project. so i encouraged multitasking while waiting for the photocopier or the gocco, and it really seemed to work well.

there's always that wonderful moment when i pull the first print for my demo, holding my breath and hoping it does, in fact, print -- and when it does everyone gasps a little. truly! i love hearing that sound: the first time you see a print come off the gocco it's magic. :)

one of the interesting side effects for teaching is that i had to create projects to demonstrate the gocco. you'll be hearing more about those later...

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: printing

January 12, 2008

the advantages and drawbacks of cg

by sven at 12:01 am

During the past decade, we've seen an enormous amount of computer animation in feature films.

Among the stopmoes at StopMotionAnimation.com, I hear a lot of frustration about this. We've lost ground. Seeing stopmo in feature films is rare now. Many of the artisans who used to have the skills for doing feature-worthy effects haven't been able to find enough work, and have had to move on. Hard-won craft knowledge is dying off. There are regular rants about the "suits" in Hollywood not understanding what can be accomplished with stopmo, and not putting money behind it.

My strongest love and loyalty is to stopmo. Yet, part of my mind wants to get beyond the rants and understand in depth what's behind the rise of CG. Call it playing the "devil's advocate" -- or just really wanting to know "why?"


Where in feature films do we see computer animation?

It seems to me that there are two areas where CG has come to dominate: monster films, and "cartoon" animation.

For three generations, if you wanted to have full-body monsters on screen, you needed to use stopmo. Willis O'Brien was the progenitor of this heritage, animating the 1933 King Kong. He was followed by his protege Ray Harryhausen, who single-handedly produced the effects for such classics as "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms," "Jason And The Argonauts," and "Clash of the Titans." Ray's mantle as master of the art form was passed on to Phil Tippett, working within the company Industrial Light and Magic. His style came to be known as "Hyper-Harryhausen" -- more photo-realistic monsters, but with the addition of motorized "go-motion" to create blurs (e.g. for the taun-taun in "The Empire Strikes Back," and the dragon in "Dragon Slayer").

"Jurassic Park," (1993) effectively ended the tradition. A few more films used stopmo for monster effects after it came out... But Jurassic Park's success began the swift transition over to CG.

The other area where we see CG films dominating now is in what I'll call -- for lack of a better word -- "cartoon films." Films like "Ice Age," "Finding Nemo," "Over the Hedge," and "Monster House" previously would have been done using hand-drawn cel animation. The landmark film that began the shift to CG was "Toy Story"... The death-knell signaling that cel animation had seriously lost ground: when Disney dissolved its cel animation division.

I hasten to point out that "cartoon" feature films are a genre that stopmo has NEVER dominated in the USA. Stopmo feature films have always been rarities. If I'm not mistaken, the first feature-length clay-animation stopmo film was Will Vinton's "The Adventures of Mark Twain" in 1984. The first feature-length puppetfilm in the USA followed in 1993: "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

Since then, we've seen further feature-length puppetfilms and claymation -- but coming from an astonishingly limited number of artists/producers. "James and the Giant Peach" and "Coraline" come from Henry Selick, and "Corpse Bride" comes from Tim Burton -- the same two individuals who produced "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Will Vinton studios has dissolved and reemerged as Laika, which is employing Selick to produce "Coraline." Meanwhile, it seems to me that the spiritual successor to the Vinton Claymation tradition has manifested in the UK in the form of Aardman studios -- whom we have to thank for "Wallace and Gromit."

Thus, when we look at "cartoonish" CG films and wish that Hollywood producers were making them in stopmo instead, we would do well to recall that this is not a genre that we have lost ground -- rather, we are only beginning to make our first inroads.



What are the advantages of using computer animation to create monsters and other similar effects? Here's the list I come up with:

1) Editable.
Whereas a stopmo creature delivers a performance which you cannot go back and tweak, computer animation can be tweaked and edited endlessly. Given the financial risk associated with producing a feature film, this is a huge plus.

2) Crowd shots.
Ray Harryhausen pushed the limits of what can be done with stopmo by having Jason fight seven skeletons simultaneously. Stopmo is best suited to dealing with just a few puppets at one time. With CG, on the other hand, you can produce whole armies of creatures.

3) Less dependence on master animators.
When you have to get a shot right on the first try, you hire a master animator to accomplish it. When you have the freedom to edit, you have a much broader pool of talent to hire from.

4) You only need to build one model of a character.
When "The Nightmare Before Christmas" was being filmed, there had to be a dozen or so copies of Jack Skellington, so different animators could be working at the same time on different sets. When your "puppet" is a data file, you can give duplicate copies to many animators, with no further expenditure of time or money.

5) Simplification of materials.
When you do computer animation, everything is made out of pixels. When you're building stopmo puppets, there are many materials to procure: foam latex, silicone rubber, paints, steel and silver solder... And each of these different materials requires specialized tools: brushes, ovens, spray booths, lathes... This is not to say that CG doesn't require specialized softwares and specialized skillsets (modeling, rigging, animating) -- but things are simplified nonetheless.

6) Less physical storage space needed for props.
After you've made a film, what do you do with all the puppets and sets you constructed? Some might be auctioned off -- but a lot will go into cold storage, which consumes space (which also costs money). Keeping data over the long term is highly problematic -- but in the short-term, it's a huge space-saver.

7) Models don't degrade over time.
Puppets get dirty or break and need to be cleaned or replaced. After a few years, foam latex starts to rot. CG models remain immaculate during the course of filming. (In the long run, "bit rot" is a problem, though.)

8) Lighting.
One of the more tricky parts of compositing a stopmo monster puppet with live action footage is getting the lighting to match -- it's a delicate art. With CG, you can use virtual lights on your subject... Another instance where being able to edit CG sequences inside the computer makes the filmmaker's life easier.

9) Shadows can be accomplished without miniature sets.
In stopmo, if you want a puppet's shadow to fall on something, you can't do that with a green screen -- you have to build a miniature set. With CG, you can create transparent shadows that get composited in over live action footage. You may need to model planes that the shadows fall on, but this is usually a fairly simple matter.

10) Dark shots.
When you shoot against a blue screen or green screen, you need a fairly high level of illumination in order to make sure that the backdrop is a uniform color. You probably can't shoot a monster that's supposed to be in a darkened room and just green screen it into your shot -- you'll probably have to build a miniature version of the set. With CG, shadowed creatures are easy to composit.

11) Key-framing.
Both cel animation and computer animation allow you to pose key-frames and then make "inbetweens" to connect them. This isn't an option in stopmo -- which is one of its special challenges. You can plan an animated sequence in stopmo by shooting a "pop-through" -- but you don't ever get to use those actual photos in the final.

12) Complicated sequences can be animated piecemeal.
In CG, you can animate in passes... First just animating the monster's spine, then going back and doing its limbs, then finessing its claws, and finally working on the facial expressions. In stopmo, you have to pay attention to all of these things all at once.

13) Reusable sequences.
After you've animated a monster in CG, you can re-use that performance many times, looking at it from different camera angles. (For instance, if you have an army of monsters fighting.) With stopmo, because you only get one camera angle, you are almost never able to reuse a performance.

14) Algorithm-based motion.
With CG creatures, certain motions can be accomplished through programming rather than key-framing. A millipede's legs or a robot's walk, for instance, are good candidates for this technique. Obviously, it's not an option for stopmo.

15) Easily combined with other effects.
Because CG already exists in the computer environment, it's relatively easy to combine it with other special effects -- e.g. fire, smoke, water, explosions. Fire and water are notoriously difficult to accomplish with stopmo... It's often easier to use other means to create such illusions -- but then you're left with the difficulty of how to fuse them with the original stopmo performance. (Imagine getting a dragon to realistically breathe fire, for instance.)


What about the inherent drawbacks of using CG? My list is much shorter:

1) Less textural.
Most of the textures we see on CG monsters are simulated. The scales on a dragon generally aren't modeled in virtual 3D space -- they're painted onto flat polygons. See, the more polygons you have, the longer it takes to render out frames. To an extent these painted-on scales can be programmed to catch light and shadow -- but this strategy produces less convincing results than when you do actual 3D modeling. Stopmo, on the other hand, uses real textures -- which have an inherently "real" look to to them.

2) Unrealistic lighting.
CG lighting often has a flatness to it. In real life, shadows are often stark and whites are blown out -- but you hardly ever see this in computer animation. To an extent, it's the result of aesthetic choices. In a "good" image, you don't choose to have blown out whites -- but that's not necessarily the most realistic choice. Rendering lighting conditions such as "radiosity" (ambient, reflected light) and sub-dermal glow (flesh's subtle translucency) require a lot of computation... In terms of the time it takes to create these effects, they're very expensive. Stopmo, on the other hand, by using real light, bypasses many of these problems.

3) "Floaty" animation.
From its earliest days, computer animation has fought against its tendency to look "floaty" -- as if things are moving around without being impacted by gravity or friction. Much has been done to improve this tendency -- and yet, its roots are inherent in allowing the computer to create inbetweens for you. Stopmo is often accused of being "herky-jerky"... But in reality, living animals move with some jerkiness. To an extent, what has been perceived as a flaw of stopmo adds to its feeling of "life."

4) Not hands-on.
There's a computer screen between you and the thing that you're trying to animate. To me at least, it's easier to relate to how a thing is supposed to move when I can actually touch it.


When I spell out all the advantages of using CG for monsters, it seems like a really staggering list to me. I don't find it surprising at all that CG would become the first tool of choice for a filmmaker when confronted with a special effects challenge... And I can understand why, over time, there would be an impulse to just do all of your effects work with CG and forget about the other options.

On the labor-supply end of things, I can also see why CG has become so successful. There's a uniformity of software -- which makes it easier to train potential employees. Learning the art of stopmo has largely remained a master-apprentice process (or perhaps even more often, a matter of being self-taught)... Learning how to use a piece of software like Maya, on the other hand, is easily accomplished in a classroom context. Hollywood needs an army of interchangeable CG modelers, riggers, and animators -- so the institutional schooling system responds by offering relevant majors to students.


Stopmoes should remember that computer animation is not just displacing our own work -- artists who make hand-drawn cel animation are also in jeopardy.

It seems that computer-created cartoons are evolving in two main directions: ones created using 3D modeling software such as Lightwave and Maya -- and ones created using 2D vector-based software, such as Flash. The 3D cartoon look is exemplified by films such as "Cars," "Ratatouille," "Happy Feet," "Veggie Tales," and "Barnyard." The Flash cartoon look is exemplified by TV shows like "Powerpuff Girls" and "Samarai Jack." For this essay, I'll limit discussion to 3D productions.


So: What are the advantages of making something like "Mickey Mouse" or "The Secret of NIMH" using computers rather than pencils and paint?

1) Characters are guaranteed to stay "on model."
When you're hand-drawing characters, it takes a lot of skill to keep mass and shape looking correct. With CG, this is a non-issue.

2) Elimination of the inbetweener's job.
Instead of having to pay people to draw the inbetween pictures, all you need is someone who'll do the key poses (in theory).

3) Ease of editing.
When you want to make a minor edit to a sequence, instead of having to re-draw it you can simply push your digital puppet a bit more this way or that -- and the computer will take care of the rest of the fixes for you.

4) Easier to rotate geometrical shapes.
In hand-drawn animation, it's much easier to rotate objects that are round and squishy... Hard-edged rectangular objects are difficult to rotate accurately. Not so for a computer.

5) Lighting effects are easier.
Want a shadow? Want to change the color palette of a scene from high noon to midnight? No problem.

6) Savings on film stock, cels, paint.
Computers aren't cheap -- but (theoretically) they represent a one-time expense. In place of materials costs you have... Electricity bills.


What about the disadvantages of using CG for cartoon films?

1) Fewer cheats.
You can't just imply a location impressionistically with a few lines and swaths of color -- everything you want on screen has to be modeled.

2) Less life in the inbetweens.
A lot of the exciting character of animation happens in the inbetween poses. If you leave that work to the computer, the product is going to be more boring at a very fundamental level.

3) Less squash and stretch.
Yes, to an extent you can squash and stretch computer models... But if you go too far, the rigging (digital armature) will break. You can rig special models for special effects -- but it takes a conscious effort to create the extremes that a pencil can draw with complete ease.

4) Fewer lively "off model" poses.
There's a school of thought (championed most loudly by John Kricfalusi) that focuses on creating truly unique poses and expressions for animated characters. These are, almost by definition, "off model." It's an approach that is contrary to what computer animation does best: uniformity.

5) Absence of line quality.
A huge amount of expressiveness is conveyed through the hand-drawn lines that an animator makes. These don't exist for CG characters.


When the problem is how to create a monster that interacts with live-action actors, CG and stopmo offer two different solutions -- but there is a common criteria for judgement: do the results look photo-realistic? All other considerations aside, CG will usually win out because it is able to provide images that are on the whole more complicated and better integrated into live-action sequences.

When we compare CG and hand-drawn cartoons, however, the products don't look remotely the same. The shared goal? To tell a story that can't be told with live-action. [I'm tempted to say "a story with talking animals," since that is a frequent commonality -- but it wouldn't include a film like "The Incredibles."]

CG cartoons and hand-drawn cartoons ought to be able to co-exist as two separate and unique forms of animation... And yet, how can we ignore Disney dissolving its cel animation branch?

It seems to me that while CG has not delivered the deathblow to hand-drawn cartoons that it's dealt to stopmo monsters, displacement and domination are apparent. Personally, I would say it's largely due to the entertainment industry's aspirations to be... Well, industrial.

The same art school students who are being trained to do modeling, rigging, and animating using Lightwave and Maya for special effects -- they're easily repurposed for CG cartoon films. Companies like Disney were essentially factories to begin with -- but with the standardization that computers (and computer training) provides, the working parts of the entertainment machine (i.e. animators) become even more interchangable.

For an entertainment corporation, the only purpose that "artistry" has is to win Oscars, which act as a form of advertising for the product. So long as the product is "good enough," selling enough units to turn a profit, artistry is expendable...

At least so long as brand recognition doesn't suffer. If different companies' products don't look different from each other -- then there's a reason to start bringing artistry back into the mix!


The phenomenal success of CG as an animation technique is also its Achilles' Heel. Because all of the big entertainment companies have rushed to embrace it, the old techniques have essentially become new again.

There is room for stopmo to be revived for monster films -- and not just as retro pastiche. However, it can never again be the default. From now on, it has to be used as a conscious choice. A name-recognition director very much has it in their power to go this route.

An example: Wes Anderson. Anderson is known for his unique vision; people go to see his films in part if not largely because he's the author. In "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," he bucked the trend and used stopmo instead of CG for all his underwater creatures. The most important of them all -- the Jaguar Shark -- is essentially a monster. This isn't your typical (read "cliched") monster film -- but it's an example of stopmo being used for realistic monster effects, nonetheless.

With regards to cartoon films, again, because the big studios have all rushed to embrace CG (for fear of being left behind?) there's now a void ripe for a daring entertainment company to exploit.

Enter Laika. See, Pixar's doing CG, Disney's doing CG... If Laika starts pumping out stopmo features like "Coraline," it doesn't have any competition! If it does well with this film, it has a chance to quickly establish market dominance.

So how will the other big players in the USA respond? Well, rumor has it that Disney's agreed to do a stopmo remake of Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie." [There's Tim Burton again, one of three-or-so individuals who's currently getting free reign to make stopmo films when he wants.] It seems to me that Disney has seen their blunder... And rather than letting Laika get the upper hand, it's going to counter with its own stopmo product.

Laika and Disney both putting out stopmo products? Remember, there's only been a handful of feature-length stopmo films made in the USA -- EVER. This is an unprecedented scenario... Which, optimistically, could lead to a new boom for stopmo.


I think the year that "Wallace and Gromit" and "Corpse Bride" were both up for Oscars represents a turning point. "Coraline" will build upon that momentum... And if we're very lucky, we might be looking forward to a decade or more of a stopmo film coming out ever year or two.

This would be an excellent thing because -- (and this is a surprise ending to the essay that I didn't see coming) -- what I think we desperately need is more big name directors who have an affinity for the stopmo artform... Because right now, all we've got is Tim Burton, Henry Selick, Nick Park, and Wes Anderson.

If the big studios commit to producing stopmo product, then some new blood might have a chance to rise to the top ranks... And once the directors have had a chance to taste the process of making stopmo films, how can they not wind up pushing to do even more of them?

posted by sven | permalink | categories: stopmo, writing

January 11, 2008

sock mending party 2008

by gl. at 5:24 pm

to get 2008 off on the right foot (ha!), last week shu-ju decided to host a sock-mending party. she set up a serger & a sewing machine and invited a bunch of people over to mend things.

it just so happened we had a huge pile of socks & pants that had been waiting patiently for such an opportunity for years, as well as a coat pocket that needed mending. we've had a pair of smittens we've been unable to use for years because the first time we tried them the seam split. plus, toby had developed a couple of indiscreet spots where his stuffing was beginning to come out.

so after an afternoon of learning new machines, eating homemade cookies & smashed fish (okay, sven didn't partake of the fish), we now have a lot less "holy" socks and a lot more frankenstein ones, several more pairs of useable pants, a reason to go for walks in the cold, and a sock creature who can do the splits on a whim. toby was delighted to get a chance to meet some blog readers in person. i've never been to a sock-mending party before, but i'm looking forward to the next one!


posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany, toby

January 10, 2008

rsvp: monster month book release party

by sven at 4:45 pm

WHAT: MONSTER MONTH Book Release Party!

WHEN: Thursday * January 31, 2008 * 7:00pm - 9:00pm

WHERE: Scarlet Star Studios

Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect -- directions will be emailed

CONTACT: contact@scarletstarstudios.com


Scarlet Star Studios has just published a book: "Monster Month: Thirty-one New Discoveries from the World's Foremost Cryptozoologist." We're throwing a party to celebrate!

Meet the author, Professor Ichbonnsen, in person! Our famous guest will be joining us to read from the text -- and will be available afterwards for autographs.

[Disclaimer: If, in the unlikely event that the Professor is unavoidably detained by his Monster Hunting duties, a studio representative will read a special letter from the author in his absence.]

Monster Month's illustrator, Sven Bonnichsen, will also be on hand to meet the public. The 33 original paintings that he produced will be available for viewing -- and we will watch the brand new animated commercial that Sven's created to promote the book.

Monster-themed snacks will be served.


A limited number of books will be available for sale at the party for $31. To reserve a copy for yourself, please mention this in your RSVP.

If we run out of copies at the event, we will gladly ship a copy to you for $34, cash or check. Books should arrive approximately 2 weeks after your order is placed.

You can also order a copy for yourself at any time by visiting the book's website, here: stores.lulu.com/scarletstarstudios

Books ordered online cost $31 plus shipping.


Thirty-one days, thirty-one monsters: Monster Month!

After a lifetime of trekking jungles, climbing mountains, and spelunking caves, the world's foremost cryptozoologist at last reveals a selection of his greatest discoveries. Herein you will find the Adameve, the Dark Strider, the Opium Gore Golem, the Trick Squilligoss, the Zompire Bat... And many more fantastic beasts!

With the keen mind of a scientist and the bold heart of an explorer, Professor Ichbonnsen provides illuminating descriptions of how the creatures live -- and astonishing tales of how he found them.

Both adults and children will marvel at the Professor's adventures... And be left wondering what else remains yet undiscovered in the unexplored corners of our rich planet. Like the map-makers of old, you will understand: "Here be dragons!"

Monster Month is lavishly illustrated with 32 full-color paintings by Sven Bonnichsen, and 7 full-color maps tracing Professor Ichbonnsen's travels.


Professor Ichbonnsen: "I have made it my business to track down legends, to investigate strange rumors, to delve into the darkest, unplumbed depths of nature -- searching out species heretofore unknown to humankind. Now, for the first time, I am ready to share a selection of my most prized discoveries with the outside world."

To read about Professor Ichbonnsen's adventures, please visit his personal website: monstermonth.blogspot.com

Sven Bonnichsen: "I co-founded Scarlet Star Studios with my partner Gretchin Lair in 2004. I'm a multi-media artist; over the past five years my focus has been on creating short animated films, using both computer-generated and stop-motion puppet characters. Monster Month represents my first work as an illustrator."

To read about Scarlet Star Studios' ongoing projects, please visit: scarletstarstudios.com/blog

posted by sven | permalink | categories: exhibits & events

January 8, 2008

essentials & influences

by gl. at 5:59 pm

dayna posted her studio essentials & influences based on the book "alphabetica," which sven serendipitously gave me for xmas this year. it's a good meme, i think (plus, when am i -ever- going to be listed as an influence on the same list as the beatles again? :D). so to carry it forward...

studio essentials:
1. stars
2. letters
3. the flat files sven built
4. scissors, exacto knives & glue sticks
5. a TON of paper
6. bits & scraps, some of which i've been hoarding since the 9th grade
7. music
9. the electric tea kettle
8. printer & photocopier
10. teh internet

1. sven & toby
2. astronomy & science
6. the artist's way & pamela underwood
3. edward gorey
4. calligraphers, especially denis brown
5. andy goldsworthy
7. portland
8. shu-ju wang
9. burning man
10. teh internet

i'd love to read your essentials & influences, too! i'm not "tagging" you per se, but feel free to answer these on your own blogs or in the comments. :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: miscellany

January 6, 2008


by gl. at 3:32 pm

last year one of my new year's resolutions was "learn how to make an origami box." origami appeals to me because it doesn't require cutting or measuring, a major downfall for other forms of papercraft. so i hopped on amazon, bought a book & some origami paper, couldn't make the pieces fit together and gave up. so on new year's eve i wanted to give it another try, and i am happy to say i made 6 of them!


in addition to the ones in the above photo, i also made one with all the colors for sven to celebrate the completion of "a word from professor ichbonnsen." we both finished our projects at approximately the same time, with 15 minutes to get dressed in warm clothing, find the umbrella straws for the mini bottles of champagne, and run to the top of the hill to watch portland shimmer with midnight fireworks.

this year one of my resolutions is "make a perfect-bound book." wish me luck!

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: other art

January 5, 2008

artist's way guided intent (january) & artist's way open studio (december)

by gl. at 1:23 pm

this week's guided intent was a writing event. last year i used vicki lind's old photos for all the exercises, but this time i varied the images. first i used some faces i had torn out of magazines that i've been carrying around since college, then cards from edward gorey's "the helpless doorknob," then cards from "the creative whack pack," and finally we returned to vicki's photos.

most of the photos had 5-minute prompts, though vicki's photos had a series of 2-minute prompts, at which point participants could either elaborate on one of the stories they started or pick another photo and write for another 10 minutes.

also, december's open studio (which i am just now writing about) seemed the perfect place to make these gift tag collages. these were fun to make and fun to match up with the gifts.

that last one is "the angry christmas zebra." alesia asked me why the zebra was angry, and i told her this tag represents a moment in the "rocky" training montage after the zebra had been rejected from santa's sleigh team.

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: artist's way

January 4, 2008

A Word From Professor Ichbonnsen

by sven at 2:52 pm

click on image to play clip (2.1 MB)

I just finished a short-short new film: "A Word From Professor Ichbonnsen."

This was a submission for the StopMoShorts.com quarterly Stopmo Haiku Challenge. The challenge is that SMS provides four keywords -- in this case realm, swap, alley, and rose -- and you have to make a short film that works in one or more of them. I chose to go with the word "realm."

The deadline was Dec. 31... And I managed to get my project uploaded a good 40 minutes before midnight. ;-) At SMS, "A Word From Professor Ichbonnsen" (AKA the Monster Month TV Ad) can be viewed here.

I feel I should explain that this project didn't start out as a commercial. Toward the end of December I had already fabricated the set and the puppet version of Ichbonnsen (no, that's not the man himself!)... I wanted to shoot a quick gag about the Professor encountering the creature from the book cover -- but ran out of time for constructing a decent monster puppet.

I was contemplating giving up on doing a short -- when it occurred to me that it would be funny to see Ichbonnsen holding a miniature copy of the book, waving it around. The book prop was much easier to make... So I went with it.

To me, the film stands on its own. The fact that there actually IS a Monster Month book for sale simply deepens the pleasure of the fantasy world.

posted by sven | permalink | categories: bestiary, stopmo

January 2, 2008

toby's first birthday

by gl. at 12:16 pm

this should be the last toby post for a while, but i wanted to say that yesterday was toby's first "birthday"! yes, one year ago, on new year's day, i went to an old socks, new friends meetup. i almost didn't go because it was the day after new year's at night and i hadn't met anyone there and i can't sew, but a woman from that group had specially invited me and i thought it sounded like a grand idea. alas, i've never seen her again, but it was her socks that made toby who he is!

toby's name and personality formed almost as soon as i made him. i can hardly believe he has been such an influence at the studio. who knew i needed an irrepressible, enthusiastic alter ego with a loud british accent? thanks to everyone who tolerates and encourages our whimsy.

[make a wish]

btw, he takes remarkably delicate bites for a creature with such a big mouth. :)

posted by gl. | permalink | categories: toby