MA Program Complete: Now its Portfolio time!

Short Artist Statement
I am a Canadian artist who uses illustrated journals to record the realities of the world around me. Recently I spent 6 years (2011-2017) in East Africa which has been the source of my inspiration.

My Major Study project The Metamorphosis of a Bottle Cap is a stop motion animated film which incorporates illustration and 3d puppets. Set in a developing nation this short film focuses on the repeated reuse of an object highlighting the creativity and ingenuity of the local people in a developing nation and is an example of the positive affects of cross-cultural exposure.

My work involves illustration, 3d stop motion characters and animation. I use technology as a tool to capture the movement of my drawings and characters that I have created and animated by hand. I currently reside in The Hague and am interested in creating more stop motion films for commercial use.

Below is a sequence of images that I chose for the IDI online Graduation showcase. Each image will appear individually on a white background in the order seen here. The full film will not be seen on this platform. Since these images will be seen without the film, and only a clip from the mask scene, the question is will these still frames engage the viewer enough to seek my full portfolio website, will they want to see the film? If my goal is to be involved in similar creative projects within the commercial arena, do these images suit this purpose well enough?

masksThe above image (1. Masks) will be linked to a short clip of this scene: https://vimeo.com/289998938

 

title
2. Title

 

 

rollingBottleCaps
3. Rolling Bottle Caps

 

 

crabCharacter
4.Crab character

 

 

checkers
5. Checkers

 

 

handAndCap
6. Hand and Cap

 

 

waves
7. Waves

 

 

sandCastle
8. Sandcastle

 

 

masaiJump
9. Masai Jump

 

 

toyCarCrash
10. Toy Car Crash

Questions for you the viewer:

Without having seen the full film, what image speaks to you the most and why?
Which image speaks to you the least and why?

After having seen the full film, is there any still frames you feel are missing from the sequence of 10 (including the mask still frame and clip).

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Clay Head Sculpting Warm-ups

The above photo includes the warm-up sculpts I did for the Ethiopian woman puppet. I started with the one on the far right and continued to create heads until I got closer to the imagined character. I really struggled with the first one. I should have anticipated this as it was the first attempt and I was working from a specific sketch which is a bit of a challenge for me since I normally create my characters without any planning and stop when interesting features appear. They can be male, female, whatever comes out of the process so purposefully creating delicate female features was a challenge for me.

I was not happy with her facial expression, I wanted her to be smiling. This was quite tricky. Without hair, eyebrows and eyelashes most characters look more male but I will be adding these details later. I added more weight to the face but this made the character look younger and less womanly.

In preparation for hair and an ornamental headdress, I created holes in the clay head and reinforced some of them with hollow wooden beads while it was still wet. This was an experiment to see if I could prevent cracking when attaching and possibly animating the headdress. In the above photos the clay has dried without cracking around the beads which sometimes happens around the eyes.

The next two characters were quite fast to sculpt, but they looked male, I kept them since there are 3 Masai characters in the film which these heads could be used for.

In the next attempt I tried to elongate the face and add more to the eyelids but perhaps these features were too exaggerated for the Ethiopian character.

The above photo depicts the development of the mouth, which is getting closer to the shape I had envisioned.

Adding and subtracting weight from the face as well as manipulating and refining features to achieve more friendly and female characteristics was a bit of a process but an enjoyable one as these warm-up characters have been kept and although are not suited for the intended character, they maybe useful for others.

 

 

Depth of Composition, Theme & Context

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In the wind chime scene (as described in earlier posts) I had started to place items on different planes but felt this could be taken further to create more depth within the scene. The above clip is from the Joy ride sequence that was shot recently and is finally a good example of depth. I made a good decision to pushed forward on getting this scene back into the filming schedule because this is where much of my learning on the course has synthesized. In this one shot, there is depth, a good colour scheme and the incorporation of my illustration within the 3 dimensional space.

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Beyond the achievement of visual depth, deeper themes in relation to culture are being reinforced in this sequence as well. Although this is not the first time the hand is seen guiding a metamorphosis, this action in the second last scene of the film drives home the idea that a local person is supplying the creativity it takes to transform the bottle cap into something else useful. Since ‘reuse’ is beneficial for the environment and an economical way to approach daily life, this depiction of a developing nation is positive. Symbolized by the hand, the narrative is guided by an African.  Until recently, films that depict Africa in a positive light guided by an African protagonist have been rare (please see my Reflective Statement for supporting references).  If this film were to be just about ‘reuse’, it could have been situated anywhere in world with any soundtrack.  The bottle cap could have rolled seamlessly through it’s multiple changes without any interference from a guiding hand. It is the addition of these components reinforced at the end of the film that drives home the context of where and how this positive activity is occurring. It is these items that suggest there are positive things happening in developing nations and paves an open and friendly avenue for cross cultural exposure. Although perhaps less subtle than the theme of ‘reuse’, this overarching theme ‘the positive affects of cross-cultural exposure’ provides another layer of depth and importance to the message of the film which is intended for a global audience. 

 

 

 

Reused Bottles: A Crab Castle

When designing the castle, I originally thought that the bottles would be right side up but realized after some contemplation that their shape would suit the castle better if they were upside down.

I covered them in modelling material, made a hole in the top (bottom of the bottle) for the the flag poles and let them dry for a few days.

I painted them with glue and then covered them with sand, I repeated this process twice.

I mapped out where the towers would go, and started building up a base with repurposed tinfoil.

I tested it and then covered it with modelling paste and later with 2 layers of glue and sand.

I cut bottles in half and covered them with sand and glue to create a gate with individual parts.

I chose some eyes to be peering out of the castle and made new eyelids out of Fimo. The eyes, like the ones in the clay heads are Ugandan Tear-drop seeds. They are glued onto the end of a wire which is wrapped tightly with local African fabric and barkcloth.

Some eyelash trimming had to go on..

IMG_3048

Some characters were placed inside the towers which needed to be decorated in a way that incorporated the bottle caps as a ‘crown jewel’.

Originally the castle flags above were red and made with a stiffer wire. Ultimately I went with a softer wire that was easier to animate and yellow tape because I felt it added more contrast to the colour scheme rather than the red.

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 8.36.32 AM

Both the Castle and the gate are made up of separate pieces that can be moved around to create the desired composition. This was very effective when I needed to place the crab inside the gate because he is quite large. With these moveable parts I was able to split the castle and gate onto two separate tables and film the crab from the perspective of the crabs in the castle towers.

References
Below is a link to a post containing the sourced material where I investigated some of these processes
https://outofthesketchbook.wordpress.com/2018/02/27/sand-castle-prototypes/

 

Metamorphosis of a Bottle Cap: Draft 1

To Reshoot or Refine in Post-Production
Throughout the filing process I often have to decide what is best practice; reshooting a scene or editing the frames in photoshop. Sometimes these two processes take the same amount of time and don’t always yield the desired result. Sometimes when I reshoot a scene to finesse certain aspects I loose other desired qualities in the original shot. In the clip above I originally decided to remove (in Photoshop) the sticky tack holding the left foot in place. I tried a few frames and felt it would be better to reshoot.

In this case reshooting was a good decision. There is less unnecessary movement of the castle and on the body of the crab, the glue is less visible and there was only a handful of frames I needed to fix in photoshop when I notice a glue gun cord that appeared in the shot by accident.

Changes from the story board
Since it took so long to set up and secure this set, I decided to leave the crab on the top of the castle for the final shot. This is different from the story board where he has already come down by the time the celebratory flags go up. Since he was positioned where the final flag was meant to appear, I had the crab reach behind to grab the flag and wave it himself. Although this was not originally planned, I think this worked out nicely.

Above is the first rough draft of my final MA project Metamorphosis of a Bottle Cap. There are still items to refine and possibly a scene to add if time allows.

Edits made
I watched tutorials suggested by my tutor on lynda.com on musical timing within animation and then amended both the mask and Checkers scenes. I am not sure I can see a huge difference after all the work I put into it but I now understand how to analyze wave forms and how to plan the big movements based on that. 

Edits to be made if time allows
The last song in the film perhaps comes in too fast… I would prefer to use an African song with a similar inspirational feel to replace it. 
I also wanted to add a film title and credits but realistically I’m probably going to have to choose between titles or adding the Joy ride scene. 

Post Production

Screen Shot 2018-08-24 at 8.45.49 PM.pngAfter seeking advice from professionals working in the industry of stop motion, I realized I needed to leave the raw files alone and just work with the jpegs. This eliminated the issue I had before with the files changing colour intensity. I haven’t finished removing the wire rigs in photoshop in the Mask scene. This is going to take me quite a while, I have edited 110 frames out of the 367 and have been breaking this process down to palatable daily portions. 

I did some editing to the Wind chime scene. Some of the frames were blurry because the hands were secured with wire that was too soft. I was lucky that there were enough frames that I could remove the blurry ones and still have a decent animation. The photo (above right) shows the set up for this scene. The apparatus for the branch is quite sturdy since I filled some of the tins with sand but the wires that supported the hands could have been stronger. I tried to double up the already twisted wire but the hands would not reach the branch. If I were to do this again I would purchase wire that is more rigid. For the most part this soft wire did not effect the shot too much, but made the animating process more tedious. It’s possible with more rigid wire I would be able to control the action more and perhaps show more creativity within the movement.

Moving forward
I am going to attempt the Joy ride scene with the mini car on Monday. I’m going to try to stay away from too many visible rigs because dealing with that in post production is time consuming and tedious. There will be hands involved like the ones above and I will be using stronger wire to secure them to eliminate the blur experienced when animating the Wind chime scene. 

 

 

Character Fabrication

This stop motion animation puppet is created by threading wire through 2 wooden beads. The neck and arms are reinforced by twisting 2 wires together which is necessary to hold their position when animating. 

Waxed cotton string is wrapped around the wire and beads to give the upper body form. Wire skeletons are created for the hands as well using thinner wire so that the hands are less rigid and more animatable. The hands are wrapped with the same string and attached onto the arm with thin wire.

Feet are created by looping the leg wire into a foot shape and wrapping it in string. The head is created with black air-dry clay. Nose and mouth are roughly sculpted and then Tear Drop seeds (bought locally in Uganda) are inserted in the clay which is sculpted around them to create the eyelids and lashes.

 

IMG_E1684.jpg

Many attempts were made to create a face with delicate features referencing the the Ethiopian people. The dark brown clay that I was originally working with dried lighter than preferred. Although I was able to create a darker clay by mixing the brown clay with a dark blue and green clay,  for some reason, this combination made the texture difficult to work with as it was too malleable and possessed a slightly greenish/blueish tint that was not desirable (no photos were taken of this experiment) and I continued to look for a more suitable darker clay.

Sculpting with such small details was more difficult than the larger heads with larger features but suited the character more.

The character’s eyes are Ugandan Tear-drop seeds that were purchased locally when I lived there. The seeds are placed into the clay which is sculpted around them to create the desired eye shape. The natural hole in the seed creates a black pupil, around this hole is a textured circular area that can be painted and looks like an iris, the rest of the seed has a natural shiny surface and easily replicates the white of the eye. I was really lucky to find these seeds, I haven’t found anything that works better, either natural nor fabricated. I used them for the eyes of the crab characters as well.

The final head was attached to the neck wire and inserted into the hole in the base of the head that was created when the clay was still wet. Even though the scene with the female character was cut, I used the same process when creating the bodies for the Masai people who wore the masks. Although this was unintentional, the black delicate figure I created for the Ethiopian woman seems to reference the silhouette paper cut-outs of Lotte Reiniger in her Animated feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1926.  Reiniger created the first animated feature and I am happy to celebrate her influence on my work. 

References
REINIGER, L. (1926). The Adventures of Prince Achmed [Online video]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ywgp0daIgE [Accessed: May 6th 2018].

Wave Transitions & Future Investigations

  

When moving from the Mask scene into the Joy ride scene, waves take the cap out to sea and deposit it further down the shore.When trying to work out this transition, I considered and tested several versions.  Above I attempt to animate 3 waves at the same time. This has potential but needs to be further refined.

Above I tried a version with line designs in the sand seemingly created by the motion of the tide. I found this less aesthetically pleasing than the versions without the design. This version would also need post-production as the cap enters the shot on a rig.

The above wave entry is smoother but, the rig would still need to be removed in post-production.

The diagonal line created by the entry of the cap creates an unbalanced composition and the movement of the wave could be more natural.

Similar to the considered next shot, but nothing to fix in post-production, the movement of the waves is not smooth.

Although there is a unnatural hole in the sand after the cap is washed out to sea, the movement of the wave is very smooth. It is easier to refine the movement of one wave on its own rather than 3 moving at different times.

Above was an attempt to remove the diagonal line and perhaps show that time was passing as the track gets covered with sand. In order for this to be communicated more clearly, there needs a much longer pause between the sand blowing and the first approach of the wave. The movement of the one wave coming in on an arc is effective.

Since the waves are flat to begin with, this transition most certainly would have worked well as a 2d animation created in After Effects with scans of the illustrated props. Although I didn’t have enough time to attempt this process, I am still quite excited for the applications it could have for time-based illustrations and is definitely something I will continue to investigate after the MA. I first started to see the possibilities of this when I watched Lemony Snicket’s End Titles by contemporary Illustrator Jason Caliri.  Although his characters are 2 dimensional illustrations, he has created a vast amount of depth through overlapping layers. My interest in this approach was further supported when I viewed The Breadwinner. Released in April of this year, this award winning animated film uses similar techniques involving 2d animation with depth couched in a hand crafted aesthetic. The intriguing aspect of this digital process is that the hand-made feel of the artwork can be retained by using scans of the original within the digital space. Once I realized traditional techniques don’t have to be lost, I was more open to digital processes in general.  

References

The Bread Winner. (2017) Animated film. Directed by Nora Twomey. Canada, Luxembourg, Ireland: Aircraft Pictures Canada, Melusine Productions and Cartoon Saloon.

CALIRI, J. (2010). Lemony Snicket’s End Titles [Online video]. Available from: https://vimeo.com/10005002 [Accessed: May 30th 2018].