Saturday - despite feeling about as sick as I ever feel (functionally ill) - I had a job to do. I had to go judge the Chalk Walk at the Newington Waterfall Festival. Fortunately it was a nice day (if a little hot) and I don't know about you, but when I feel crummy and I have to be out and about as though I don't feel crummy, sometimes I can trick myself into feeling better.
Anyway - here's a couple shots from the event.
The top one here won second place and the one below it, third.
It just so happened that there were four skilled landscape artists this year so all the best ones were landscapes. Personally, I'm not super in love with a plain ol' landscape - but the entries that had a more interesting subject matter to me (i.e. a dragon) were not as well executed. Whattya gonna do?
Magoo had a good time in the land of Bouncy Houses and making a mask that said 'Poop.'
Then he made his Grammy wear it, pirate-style.
Sunday we went to see the Hartford Children's Theater production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I could go into a really long critique the show from the opening to the curtain call - as a former theater major I tend to do such things - but let's just focus on the positive, shall we?
Positive 1 - Magoo sat through it. The first act with all the old people in the bed is not kid-friendly, IMO. I had to give Magoo the program and a pen so he could entertain himself by defacing the cast. But things perked up a lot in Act 2.
Postive 2 - Oompa-loompas.
Positive 3 - The lead kid actors were really quite good. The girl who played Veruca Salt was perfect!
Positive 4 - at the end of Act one Charlie is helping Grampa Joe get into his pants so they can go on the tour. Well, Grampa was wearing a long orange scarf - so when he pulled his pants on and buttoned them, the end of the scarf was left hanging out of his fly. I think you can imagine how that looked. I scanned the audience and all the adults were DYING! Magoo was just happy it was intermission.
But, like I said, he sat through the whole thing - didn't ask to leave once. So I'm calling his first live theater audience experience a success!
Here he is shaking the hands of some Oompa -loompas and Willy Wonka.
Ta-da! I made pillows! Naturally, having a new couch meant I needed new pillows. Actually, when I was at Pottery Barn shopping for my couch I saw some embroidered pillows that I liked and thought (as I often do) 'I can make those!'
So when summer swimming lessons took place, I sat with my needlework. When Magoo plays after school on the playground, I sit with my needlework. When I go to a friend's house to chat for an afternoon, I bring my needlework. And now, as I sit for 75 minutes in the waiting room while Magoo takes gymnastics, I do my needlework.
I love having a portable craft. And I love being able to produce something during a time when I would normally just sit. (Especially in waiting rooms.)
So when the pillows were done, I knew I'd need another project. I decided on a quilt for Magoo. The goal is to embroider insects and build patchwork squares up around them.
I finished a dragonfly and am nearing completion on a spider. (I think I'll add a web in the background.)
Here are the main fabrics. They are all Joel Dewberry designs. I need to get out to JoAnns and buy some solids.
I don't know how long this will take. I imagine building up the squares won't be so bad - mustering up the follow-through will be the trick. I have made one quilt before and it's the actual piecing and quilting that gives me little pleasure. But if Magoo is excited about it (and so far he is) then I know I'll get it done.
It's less than two months until Open Studio Weekend in Hartford. I just got my placement/map and know that I'm in the usual awesome spot by the solitary window (woo-hoo!) I'm also on the second floor this year which means if I find out there are food samples in the main gallery I can shoot down the stairs and be there in a minute. (double woo-hoo!)
But getting the map also means I have to start taking inventory of what's ready to go, what needs to be framed, and what hasn't even been made yet.
It looks like there are a few more artists this year so my space has actually shrunk. Therefore, I have less space to fill and so I am feeling pretty good about my over-all inventory. In other words - I think I'll be able to fill my wall space - no problemo. I'll probably want to add a piece or two to my fable collection, otherwise I think I'm good. I know I have two big fish watercolors, the lobster, some original stuff I'll put in my racks and these new ones:
I've been playing around with Sumi-E painting and I thought these both turned out well. I have a couple nice, neat frames to pop them in. We'll see if they sell. It's an experiment.
A storyboard not only serves as a plan for shooting the video, but it gives me a list of the characters and scenes I'm going to have to make. Since I would have to make all the characters out ahead of time, it also helped me think through some filming strategies and make scenes simpler. For example, I originally wanted two scenes of the fans chasing Wink and I wanted them running in different directions. If I had them running left to right then right to left, I was going to have to make two different sets of characters. Instead, I had them both running left to right, but I changed their angles. In the first scene they ran from the NW corner to the SE corner. In the second scene they ran from the SW corner to the NE corner. That way I could use the same characters.
(That said - I actually didn't use either of those scenes. I found I had way too much footage the first time around so I reshot everything and just included one chase scene. More on that later.)
You can't use any old music if you're going to put things up on the web or you'll get sued for copyright infringement. I went onto a site called Music Bakery and bought a 30 second clip called "Playful."
I think this is a great second step because the music can help you refine your ideas after you've laid your story out.
Those suckers those cut themselves out.
This is Midori - and no, she doesn't have football player paint under her eyes. Those are her blinking eyes. In some cases, characters had four or five sets of eyes that I would swap out. I also had to keep one arm free so that it could move up and down as she giggled.
So, I had my storyboard. I bought my music. I cut out a bajillion characters. Now it was time to shoot.
This was my first set-up. I had my camera on a tripod facing down and my "set" on the drafting table.
You can see three different head for Wink - as he's forming the word "Yahooooo." His arms and legs are not attached to the body so I can manipulate those and there's the letters for "Yahoo." What's the big black wad of paper?, you ask. It's from the first run. After reviewing the footage I shot the whole thing over again in the basement. (I'll get to troubleshooting at the end.)
While shooting I kept my eyes glued to the viewer in the camera. And as I'm sure you all know, in stop motion you shoot for a frame/second, stop the camera, move your character, shoot again, stop, move your character, and so forth. It's tedious and requires focus, especially in scenes where there are a few things going on. I would always put things in order like: Words, Wink, Ikuko. Words, Wink, Ikuko. First I'd move the words. Then I'd move Wink. Then I'd move Ikuko - and shoot. And I did it the same way every time.
My editing process was a little more difficult that it should have been. The new Mac would not acknowledge the old camera. I had to pull out the old Mac so I could upload the video. Edit it on the old Mac. Put it on a disc. Transfer it to the new Mac. Then tinker with it and add the music. It wasn't terrible but it was not streamlined editing.
But anyhoo - that's how it was done. Want to see it again?
OK - now let's talk about the problems.
With all the other things I was dealing with I completely forgot to use decent lighting. My studio is pretty bright in the afternoon so I thought it would be good enough. It was not. It was dark and then the sun changed so all the screens had different colors in them.
I added a light source, but because sunlight still creeped in, it continued to alter the colors and made the final product look uneven.
So I moved down to the basement. I'm still not in love with the lighting in the final cut - but I felt it was good enough and I'll tackle that problem for the next film.
Remember how I was looking through the viewfinder of my camera to set up a shot? Well - what I found after 3 days of shooting is that the camera sees more than the viewfinder. The edges were off. So, once I uploaded my footage into the camera, I could see tape marks or the bottom of a torso. It was not cute. Not cute at all. So I had to learn to zoom in more than I thought I'd need to and extend edges farther.
I had waaaay too much footage the first time around. After I cut, edited, and sped up the tape, it was still coming in at a minute, thirty seconds. That's a minute longer than I wanted. So I cut. I cut all sorts of things. For example: the opening scene started with a black piece of paper with "Wink was a ninja who wanted to be noticed" written in white. Then some scissors come on and cut out the Wink shape. Then the paper folds back to reveal the shape. The the ninja flips over. Then I add the eyes, mouth, and hand. Then Wink jumped off the screen.
It looked good but it was practically 30 seconds on it's own.
So I cut the part about the scissors and flipping the ninja. I cut the part where Wink jumps off the screen. Now it's just: establishing shot, pull paper back, ninja face + features. Boom. Moving on.
I don't think there's any way to anticipate that kind of thing. You just have to shoot it, see how it looks, and make changes. But it is good to know ahead of time that there will probably be more than one shoot so don't lose your papers/characters!
All in all it took my about 6 days of planning, cutting, shooting & editing. It was tedious and I had to remember to stretch out my back out a lot - but the process was so much fun and I love the way it came out.
Saturday we had our annual block party. We had GORGEOUS weather and all the usual activities: road race, treasure hunt, water balloon toss, pinata, talent show, pizza, injuries, tears, and a little bit of blood.
Ah, the road race. I think Magoo cries every single year. He cries if he loses. And the one year he won - he cried then too! It's a competitive thing - and sometimes it's a fairness thing. This year there was a false start - but no one stopped it so it went as it went. Unfortunately it was a hard lesson about life not always being fair. But, as I tell myself often, the earlier you learn some of these lessons, the better you'll cope when you're older. The words, "You win some, you lose some. But most of the time, in life, you lose," actually left my mouth. It's not my normal upbeat attitude, but I'm trying to teach Magoo that if you can find the fun in the activity it doesn't matter if you win the race or not. I'm not sure if that one sunk in, but he recovered quickly.
That said, I also love how in the now my boy is. As I was comforting him, he said, "I've had a terrible day!" "No," I corrected, "you've had a terrible five minutes. You day has been really fun."
And again, because I don't want him to seem like a super whiney kid, he bounced back and joined in the water balloon toss. Nothing sys, "I'm feeling better," then howling in laughter as he whips a water balloon at his mother.
One of the best things about a block party in general is closing off the street and letting the kids go crazy on their bikes. One of the worst things is that someone always crashes. Last year it was Magoo. This year it was his buddy, O. O rode his bike too close to the men's football game and got tackled.
My friend Heather brought him inside and Mike brought out the Solarcaine, saying, "This stuff stings like crazy!" O freaked out. There were hard truths flying all over the place this year.
The treasure hunt was a big success. Usually I do an obstacle course in my yard, but have found it majorly time-consuming for me as I am stuck timing 22 kids on a stop-watch while all the other adults mingle and eat. Not this year. I wised up. I hid clues all over the neighborhood and kept them running while we set up a pinata. I still had to help monitor the pinata - but it did't take as long and a lot of parents came over to watch.
My other major success was just stepping back and not stage-managing the event. Being organized, a bit of a control freak, and able to make decisions has propelled me to a psuedo Queen of the Block Party position. Queen = lots o' work. Too much work. Too little fun. So I notched it back a whooooooole lot and really tried to focus on sitting on my rear, meeting new neighbors, and eating good food. I'd say I was 50% successful, so that's definitely a step in the right direction.
All in all, I think everyone had a pretty good time.
Not only am I super pleased with myself that I shot my first stop-motion film - but I actually formatted it and got it up on YouTube with very little help from Michael.
I will go into the process of making this is future posts - and I'm sure as March approaches (when the book comes out) I will post this again and beg people to send it around - but for now, I'm just sharing it with you.
Keeping in the theme of stop-motion animation - here's what started it all for me. Maggie Stiefvater, author of Shiver and Linger, makes these beautiful stop-motion trailers for her books. Yes, that's right - it's not enough to write a published book anymore. One must also come up with a trailer for it.
Since Wink's illustration tends to lend itself to this type of animation, I've spent the last 2 weeks working on a stop-motion trailer of my own: concept, cutting paper, filming, mistakes, reshoots, music selection, etc. It's quite a project. I just finished my second full re-shoot today and now I'm uploading it into the Mac to see how it all came out.
Hopefully it will be finished soon and I can show you, but for now, I hope you enjoyed Maggie's excellent trailer. (The book's really good too.)
It's been awhile since I painted. I'd been meaning to get back to it for months and I had been meaning to painting this lobster for months but I just didn't have the time. But the art show is coming and I knew I had to get back on the art-wagon so I invited my buddy Angela, who is also a watercolor painter and who also is doing the show, to come over on Tuesday evenings so we both could carve out some time to paint.
After three evenings and a little solo time, I finished it. Ang likes to call it Rock Lobster. I think that will be it's unofficial nickname.
He's there. Right at this moment he's in second grade. I can hardly believe it.
Magoo was up at 6:30 this morning. Usually I have a no-TV-until-you're-ready-for-school rule but since he was up early and dying to watch Cyber-Chase, I let him. I had to finish my yoga anyway. His mood was normal. He didn't seem overly hyped about school. He may have been suppressing it. As he gets older he likes to show less emotion about things. But he seemed psyched when he were on the road.
We met up with some buddies on the corner and he showed off his muscle chest back-pack.
The closer we got to school, the more kids joined in the parade.
The school always does a big first day ceremony where the principal speaks (but we couldn't hear b/c the speakers weren't loud enough), the kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance (which I still remember, woo-hoo!), and then they raise the flag (which took forever because they had all the new students come up and each give one pull. BAD idea.)
Here's Magoo giving me a final wave before he marches off into his new classroom.
And here's the annual first day of school shot on the front stairs.
I wish I had a good closing line here - but looking at these pics and how's he's grown - I find myself a little amazed and without words.