Wednesday, 22 May 2013

A Kingdom Far Far Away

Once upon a time, a girl from a faraway kingdom sat in her Los Angeles apartment and packed up her bits and bobs for a fleeting visit to her homeland.

I just got back from 8 days in the United Kingdom and felt a blog update was in order. Oh, and this photo is of Bodiam castle in East Sussex (14th century). Thought the title of my post necessitated an image of a castle and this is one of my favourites. ;)

During my quick trip I had my mum's homemade scones with clotted cream (yes real cream - actual cream - not whipped air with sweetener) and during the gorgeous hot weekend I sat outside under the English sun with a glass of Pimms. It was marvellous. On my last night I had dinner at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks - an attractive pub, originally a mediaeval pigeon house which became the local centre for fighting cocks in the 17th and 18th century. The foundations date to around 793. Great place despite the typically British welcome we received - which reminded me of the scene in 'American Werewolf in London' when the two American tourists stop at 'The Slaughtered Lamb' pub for food.

Jack Goodman: Do you have any hot soup? Barmaid: No. Jack Goodman: Do you have any coffee? Barmaid: No. Jack Goodman: Do you have any, uh, hot chocolate? Barmaid: We've spirits and beers. If it's something hot you want, you can have tea. Jack Goodman: Then you have tea? Barmaid: No.

I also visited my grandfather's estate in Reigate, Surrey (which was the reason for my visit) and since it is to be sold this year I included some photos I took below.

Rushed through some more pumpkin miniatures whilst away as I'm exhibiting at the Whimsic Alley fantasy fair this coming weekend.... argh - still so much to do. Pumpkins-in-the-making pictures featuring black cat attack below.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Little House on the Table

Paints, wood-stain and scenic scatter later.... the cottage is looking a tad more rustic and less like something made from foamcore.

I started on the roof  as well (see last photo). Once you scroll past all my cottage-in-the-making snaps you'll find photos of the great Harryhausen and his work.

Find previous posts about this miniature scale cottage in the links below.

Cottage update two

Cottage update one.

Miniature set pieces aside, I'd like to take a moment to remember a very inspirational man - Ray Harryhausen who died on Tuesday.

Here are some quotes by others who have influenced me - they say it better than I could.

"What we do now digitally with computers, Ray did digitally long before but without computers. Only with his digits." - Terry Gilliam

"Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars" - George Lucas

(He was) "a one-man industry and a one-man genre" - Peter Lord (Aardman)

"I think all of us who are practitioners in the arts of science fiction and fantasy movies now all feel that we’re standing on the shoulders of a giant. If not for Ray's contribution to the collective dreamscape, we wouldn't be who we are." - James Cameron

Monday, 6 May 2013

Big jobs and Broomsticks

You'd hardly know it unless you followed me home and saw the three dozen 5 inch broomsticks laid out on my dining table and beginnings of a witchy row of houses in progress where my kitchen should be.... but the film 'Myrtle the Witch' is still in progress.

Yes, it's taken a bit of a back burner whilst I've been focusing on exhibitions, magazines and books...  but you'll start to see more of Myrtle soon. Starting right now with all these brooms I've been making over the past couple of days.

Another hellishly big job was making over 150 potion bottles. Ouch. If only there was a magic potion for conjuring them up for me. And before people write to ask why I don't use Maya or matte paintings to populate the scene - I really want 95% of what you see on screen in Myrtle to be real. I don't want it to look like a computer game - I want scenes filled with real handmade miniature furniture and physical miniature props. Without it where would be the charm?

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A Cottage Industry

Whilst making vast numbers of potion bottles to populate a scene, miniature squash and broomsticks, I'm also creating two tutorials (commissioned by a magazine and a clay manufacturer)..... and working on the thatched cottage.
Thank goodness there's a Tiki bar in this apartment and my partner knows how to make an Old Fashioned.

So, in case you missed it, my previous post about this fairytale cottage was here
It's in one inch scale, so it measures just over a foot in height. It's made using a foam-core base, wood, different types of clay, plaster and other mixed media. 

I'm happy to share some photos of it in the making here on this blog, but if interested in knowing more about technique and materials I'll be publishing a more in-depth 'how to' in my book and there will be a video tutorial on my YouTube Channel and Vimeo on how to use Celluclay. I'll post about it on this blog or on the Tall Tales Productions Facebook page, so don't forget to follow and 'like' to get updates. 

Note in my photos below that I began with a rectangular doorway and then changed it to be arched. Aside from that it pretty much follows 'design 3' in my sketchbook

I'm enjoying making this little thatched cottage because it puts me in mind of Helen Allingham's paintings, and two of my favourite films: Polanski's Tess (1979) and Far From the Madding Crowd (1967). 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

My Sketchbook - Designing the Thatched Cottage

I'll never forget first moving to LA and marveling at the lack of thatched houses. A friend I made out here asked what a 'thatched roof' was. After explaining it to him he responded "so wait... it's like a house like made of straw.... like in the Three Little Pigs?!"


I grew up in a mediaeval village in Oxfordshire in a cruck-framed redbrick thatched house built in the 16th century - a listed building. The village 'Clifton Hampden' has a cricket club and longbow archery society, two pubs (one built in 1352), a post office and a primary school with two classrooms which I attended. In the middle of the village, on a hill overlooking the River Thames stands the high-steepled church dating back to the time of King Stephen (grandson of William the Conqueror). Although much of the present church is the result of Victorian 'revival fever', parts of this church date back to the 12th century. Inside is a stone carving depicting a mediaeval boar hunt which was once above the original door. 
One of the pubs - 'The Barley Mow' was mentioned by Jerome K Jerome in 'Three Men in a Boat' (1889). He wrote:

Round Clifton Hampden, itself a wonderfully pretty village, old-fashioned, peaceful, and dainty with flowers, the river scenery is rich and beautiful. If you stay the night on land at Clifton, you cannot do better than put up at the "Barley Mow."

Alright, alright... history lesson over - let's talk about film and set pieces... (can you tell that among my passions are English country life and mediaeval history?!)

I have embarked on a fun challenge which includes a miniature scale thatched cottage. Because of the nature of the project it should lean towards fanciful and fairytale as opposed to realistic. I have a wealth of thatched cottage inspiration from my life in Clifton Hampden to draw on, so I used this teamed with an image I found of the Gaul village in French comic books 'Asterix' to come up with some designs.

I'll post photos of this cottage process over the coming weeks. Below are my original sketches (finished cottage may change from final chosen design -3) and scroll past these to see images of my village 'Clifton Hampden' and an image from 'Asterix'. 
The house I grew up in

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