Visual Artist

Hello there!

Welcome to my blog, where you will find all my work, works in progress, there's always something going on, an ever changing place where the you can stay up to date with my work, from the idea, to the trials and celebrations. Also you can found a wealth of film reviews that influence my work. Follow on Bloglovin

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Canned Film Festival (2014)


Canned Film Festival (2014)

I am delighted to announce that my work will once again be shown in the Canned Film Festival running from 7th August to 4th October at the ArtWork Studio’s and GalleryNorthwich, Cheshire. There will also be a “Celebration Evening 6th Sept from 6pm till 8pm. Short films & animations showing in ‘The Roxy’ projection area inside ArtWork Studios & Gallery.”

My work is being shown alongside: Steve Barbe, Jereme Crewe, Sonja van Kerkoff, Faye McClosekey, John Vincent, Sean Burn, Anton Hecht, Roger Barker, Robert Orlando, Alistair I Macdonald, C Kenneth Lee, Laura Gower, Edward Picot, Jamie Scrutton, Adriano Vessichelli,

 

To Hell and Back (1955)


To Hell and Back (1955)I first heard about this film from one of my uncles, about the true story of Audie Murphythe most decorated officer in America. Now I’m not a fan of Murphy’s work and To Hell and Back is not by far my best film. However I thought the concept of having Audie Murphy re-playing those moments in his life on-screen would be a hard task. For anyone to re-enact the events of a conflict must take some strength, to see their friends and comrades die before them again. Yes this time played by actors he sees get-up after the shot is taken. There must still have been some psychological effect to him during the making of this film.

I am also reminded of the fictional Nazi propaganda film Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride) made in Inglourious Basterd’s that saw a nazi solider re-enact the events of a conflict against the enemy. Of course it would be silly to suggest that Tarantino was ignorant of this past film. There have been other instances of people appearing in similar films such as Kenneth J. Warren in I Was Monty’s Double (1958) who assumed the role of General Montgomery to mislead the Germans before the Normandy landings. 

Maybe I’m forgetting something here though, a sense of pride in the individual for his country and the cause he is fighting for. That could be what drove and allowed Murphy to make/star in this film, based on his own book To Hell and Back. There was a need to tell the story right, and the only person to do that was Murphy himself. I’m only surmising here. In the same instance he could be seen to be cashing in on the book, now with a film of the events that were dramatised for effect. Nonetheless what we have is a film that celebrates a single soldiers achievments which I shouldn’t be knocking. It’s the concept of playing yourself on-screen re-enacting which beyond me. Why would you put yourself in that position?

The film on the whole is not that impressive, its main objective is to celebrate Murphy which it does from looking after his family at home in Texas before signing up with the Army (eventually). Your typical all-American hero, (ok not so typical) who went above and beyond the call of duty, which we all do in our chosen professions at one time or another. However under his circumstances, he was putting himself in danger, but went ahead and did it, which makes him braver for it. I don’t for a second think this is/was propaganda, it was straight up Hollywood celebrating one of it’s heroes, just today seen in a different light, more known as a B-movie star who may not rank as high as James Stewartbut sure does have more medals.

One-Eyed Jacks (1961)


One-Eyed Jacks (1961)I watched this based on recommendation from a number of sources, One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is another of those misunderstood films on the time on release by a one-time actor/director, such as Charles Laughton who directed The Night of the Hunter (1955) which also fell foul to similar results. Both now highly regarded classics of both the Western and film noir respectively. One-Eyed Jacks  could have been more successful if it was made and released during the dark psychological 50’s. Even with the working combination of Marlon Brando and Karl Malden  in On The Waterfront (1954) and A Streetcar Names Desire (1951). Maybe its because the film so intensely charged that it was too much to see two men once bank robbers who rode together turn so viciously away from each other.

 With a dream western cast, calling in a huge number of supporting actors who are synonymous with the genre, from Hank Worden through to Katy Jurado and Slim Pickens I can only presume the rest were busy working with John Wayne or John Ford at the time of filming. It’s rich is passion and a dark heart that travels from Mexico to the coat of California as two men must find justice. With Brando in front and behind the camera we have a different kind of western, one that is brooding and dark, full of psychology, whilst the actor who had already done a  handful of westerns fits easily into the world he is bringing together. With heavy touches of visual theatrics, such as hiding the Mexicans in pursuit behind sandstorm, not properly insight to both Rio (Brando) or the audience who try to make out what they are seeing. This too is where a father/son like relationship that was once strong, built on a shared need for women and greed is broken when Dad Longworth leaves to buy new horses, taking the opportunity to start over again. Leaving Rio with little choice but to give himself up to the authorities that surround him. A price he will not forget to be repaid.

Jumping forward 5 years we see two men making a break from prison, nothing will stop these two men, Rio and Chico Modesto (Larry Duran) from freedom. With one goal, to find Dad Longworth ad kill him. It’s not the bandit after the sherif who put him behind bars, its the betrayed friend righting a wrong that he can’t forget. Meeting along the way, Bob Armory, one of Ben Johnson‘s finest performance outside of the Ford Stock Company and The Wild Bunch (1969) as another bandit who won’t be messed around when he joins up with Rio who has a bigger reputation with a gun. Who watching the changes in his new temperamental partner.

On arriving in California we find a now respectable Longworth, a reformed gun-man now as town sherif, with a Mexican family in his life. The life of freedom and abiding the law has paid off for him, everyone knows his past, a past he has chosen to rewrite for himself, which will soon be re-evaluated when Rio arrives to find him. Living the life he could have had, fuelling his anger, the need to kill him grows stronger still. Adding to that he meets Longworth’s step-daughter Louisa (Pina Pellicer) who becomes his love interest, yet bordering on incest, if only related by marriage.

Both men are vey much the same, shaped by how events five years previously panned out, sending them both in different directions. Both a liars hiding their past from the women in their lives. It’s only a matter of time until they both can’t take anymore, who will shoot first? There are many opportunities to silence one another, the audience is left frustrated by the will they won’t they, not of love but kill, something not often replicated in the western. Surrounded by characters who are all playing against the type we usually see on-screen and so effectively too.

I’m pleased I’ve finally watched this sometimes forgotten classic, I wonder what else Brando may have directed if he wasn’t put off by the public response, with such adult themes. A film that was originally 5 hours long was recut into this still impressive form. Will we ever see that version, much like Cimino‘s Heaven’s Gate (1980) whose directors cut is 4 hours long. Brando’s reported in-experience behind the camera was sadly not seen for the genius he was today. Like so many actor/directors of his time that weren’t given the chance to make more, with visions so ahead of their time, it’s a case of if only.

Pericles in the West Update (12/9/14)


Luck struck yesterday, another day off! So off I went to the studio to complete the saloon and make a start on a completely new design for the jail. Starting first with the saloon on a corner which added balsa to the other side. I decided to also add more detail on the dry side. I was going to add the internal frames, until I realised it would be very messy. Still I’ve moved faster on this one knowing the process.

Knowing that I want only a few more buildings I thought about the vital pieces, such as the jail and Welles Fargo, the iconic pieces needed, I may even attempt a corral on this scale. There isn’t much I haven’t already built, maybe just the bank, barbers and general store to go, so 4 to go (more than I thought). Turning to the jail today, which I wanted to duplicate from the loose cardboard version, whilst knowing I wanted to retain the stone element for the jail cells away from the main building. I think I’ve got the balance right here.

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Riding in soon – The Homesman (2014)


I’ve been aware of The Homesman for a few months, Tommy Lee Jones second time in the directors chair, his first being The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005). I remember that he doesn’t like The Homesman being categorised as a western, which is hard to ignore, as it is set during that time. However that is more pure coincidence. Something that will still draw in another audience, you could say its neo-western (at a pinch) dealing with redemption and mental illness, that’s just what I’m getting from this latest trailer. 

The Homesman (2014)

Released in the U.K. 5th December, just in time to warm us up before christmas. It has received a lot of praise at film festival recently, It could also be potential Oscar material. Lets see what the rest of the year brings.

Waterworld (1995)


Waterworld (1995)It’s one of those films that comes with a reputation even before you watch it, one that I knew was a giant flop on its release, yet in recent years has taken on more of a cult following. Even after watching Waterworld (1995) I’m not getting that feeling that I want to watch it again soon. More of the plot holes that just won’t go away. What could easily be a Mad Max 2 (1981) on water, with the same basic premise of the end of the world, just with a global warming angle, set years after the polar-ice caps had melted, leaving only a handful of survivors on the surface. Seems like a good set-up doesn’t it?

Enter Kevin Costnerun-named character who travels around the planet on a rust-bucket of a catamaran where he stores everything he needs to live. It’s the car of the water basically that rips through the water like no-ones business. It seems all a bit pointless really when the Australians did such a great job of creating the ultimate apocalyptic world, pitting factions of humans against each other, looking for the promised land, something that is impossible to achieve. Here water covered Earth there is a need, a desire to reach dry land, relying on a map that is found in the form of a girls tattoo. Which somehow went unnoticed on a water settlement until she left with Helen (Jeanne Tripplehorn) on Costner’s boat. That’s during an attack by a group with the settlement are part of. It really doesn’t add up. This being a baby of Costner’s the man who gave us the stunning Dances with Wolves (1990). Lead by Deacon/Dennis Hopper a comic villain of military proportions, able to delivery rousing speeches to his legion of men hungry for dry land.

For me however the biggest plot hole, well lack of explanation is Costner’s character who we learn early on is anything but simply human, a human/fish mutation has obviously taken place before the film (maybe worth a prequel?) which is never explained. It’s constantly mentioned and used as a device to move the film on, to explain where lost world is, how he’s able to live in the water. Added to that, he’s not even that likeable, ok he has a conscience when he feels like it, but its only when it pleases him. Ultimately he’s a loner, much like Mel Gibson‘s Mad Max who we know is driven by the anger of his slaughtered family in the first film, unable to settle again amongst civilised people (using that term loosely).

Visually you can see where the money has been spent, the special effects, and the balloons. The setting allows for old sets to be recycled easily to create these thrown together sets where the remainder of civilisation lives. If only a bit more time and money was spent on the script that is at times laughable and full of cliché’s. It certainly has not aged that well. However it’s the charisma and performances from Hopper and Costner which keeps you watching this film, the rest I’ve seen before in an Australian desert with characters who come alive with more drive for survival (at least they have water, and a filtering system).

Pericles in the West Update (10/9/14)


The models are really starting to take shape. I enjoy unwrapping the models masking tape, revealing more progress with them all, showing that my ideas are taking form now. I looked over at the five I had at the start of the day, they’re quite a little collection, I don’t think I’ll be making many more.

Yet I had to push myself today, seeing if I could make the framework of these models go any further than just a roof at front of a model. First though I had to add more detail to the models I have, which need very little before I add colour at the end.

 

I decided to reproduce the corner saloon, on a 90 degree angle, not the tight one I have at the moment. This pushes my making skills in terms of the walkway which is saw the decking meet in the middle above a lattice framework to hold it up. All before I set to word designing and cutting the framework for the saloon, which will help create different layouts when it’s all brought together. I was only able to complete one side, adding strips of balsa. In reality I can only do one side at a time without compromising the piece. It should turn out pretty well.

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Pericles in the West Update (8/9/14)


The longer I spend away from the studio, the more eager I am to return here and get stuck in with my work, knowing that things are coming together now after experimenting and lots of changes, I can see the end of this long piece which maybe a photographic piece or animation. I’m still unsure how it will go, even to see some crazy graphics or images behind the models instead of the studio.

Onto todays events, focusing on the Walter Mitty inspired models which are starting to come together. I may have to produce quite a few or just a few for this to work. When I get to a point where I have 8 – 10 I’ll stop to consider how things look. The first two models have been fixed onto their bases now. They are really starting to come into their own. I’m also starting to wonder how these models would look at my normal scale, just having a single front.

It’s the big reveal each day that makes this all the more satisfying, as I remove the masking tape that has held it all in place. As I start another piece, the livery stable I am excited to see how it turns out. Building up another language within the language I have with the models. I also caught glimpses of the light creeping through the gaps, something I have to experiment with later on.

Next time I’ll be adding more detail and adding another model to this growing collection.

 

Meek’s Cuttoff (2010)


Meek's Cutoff (2010)I saw a trailer for Meek’s Cuttoff a few years ago, catching my interest, the cast I knew little about, the cast is usually the first thing that draws me to a film. However there was something about this that stood out to me, the visual style of this western, a fairer representation of women who historically have been seen more as the sex appeal and giving into the dominant men. Of course there were strong roles found during the 1950’s. I think you just had to find the right actress to bring those roles to life.

Coming also with knowledge of the Oregon Trail that has been mentioned in numerous westerns. I never understood what was so good about Oregon why that state. Before learning that was the point where settlers then went their own way. Coming into this film with more knowledge than we actually have in the film, we found a group of lost settlers, complete with three wagons and a guide.

It’s not you’re conventional western, using all the language of the genre in this usually forgotten aspect, as all the settlers either make it in the wagon train or are killed by Native Americans along the way. You never see the lost wagons who have to make it alone, a fate worse than death for these people. Who we now focus on as they make their way through a short cut to rejoin the trail. Three families who have to trust their guide who loses his credibility along the way.

The dialogue is kept to a minimum in the first half as they make their way across the open and vast country, saying very little, more a wonder and hope of food and water, which becomes one of the main theme as water becomes a priority for them, vital for survival. There’s a sense of hope being drained from them all, most in the guide a scruffy man whose face is covered in a thick grey beard, Meek (Bruce Greenwood) a man who has not spent much time in civilised society starts to show his lack of knowledge to these people. Still he remains loyal, out of employment and duty to see them to safety.

It’s only when they encounter a Native Americana figure they as a culture has been taught to fear, the stories of savagery that you never usually hear in the genre, far darker in tone. All this is reinforced by Meek who wants to hurt the innocent native, a racism that runs deep. If it wasn’t for the families who restrain him, still fearful of the stranger, the only hope of finding water.

It’s a rare western that focuses on the hardship that the early settlers, something that is overlooked or romanticized in the classic genre, creating a sense of legend and hope, the foundation of a great country. You can easily forget those who got lost along the way. There is a bleakness to the look of the film, with a washed out pastel pallet during the day. Whilst at night we loose all light practically which adds to the authenticity of the trail. None of classical studio lighting we are used to from bright campfires. Meek’s Cutoff is a rare chance to see into that lost history that the myth of conquest overlooks. With some strong performance from mostly unknown actors who usually have supporting roles, from Paul Dano who seems to be making a lot of period work, to the more mainstream Michelle Williams who takes on strong female role out in the male dominated world.

 

Lockout (2012)


Lockout (2012)I’m catching quite a few Guy Pearce films at the minute, bit of a coincidence that his new film The Rover (2014) has just been released too. I never really paid much attention to him until I saw Memento (2000) which really broke all the rule of story telling in film, as we follow a guy with no short term memory find redemption for his wife. Lockout (2012) is a very different film, set in the not too future of 2027 with a set-up similar to a video game, with a goal that is revealed after a ten minute prologue as Marion Snow (Guy Pearce) is being interrogated for a crime he didn’t commit, the gaps are filled in great detail so we are not left out by what has happened. A colleague has been shot, we know he’s been set-up.

We are then introduced to a new form of prison, that lies in orbit above Earth, holding the worlds most dangerous in cryogenic suspension, hmm what could possibly go wrong there. Especially when the Presidents daughter Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace) is visiting this prison facility, coming with her own doubts about the place, hearing rumours of physical damage, even experiments being carried out. It just gets worse for her when she interviews one of the prisoners Hydell (Joseph Gilgun) who is not in the best shape himself and not the first person you’d want to meet on the streets. 

There’s a lot of begging, borrowing and stealing going on here, smelling first of Escape From New York (1981) to begin with, having a Han Solo type being thrown into the mix, the humour is off the cuff and sly, all in the same vein of the Millennium Falcon captain, just more in our world this time. Whilst the tone of the film is quite dark, not a moment goes by without someone dying, it still has light moments, a cast of unknowns really in an American film, which is something today, showing how varied the prisoners are, coming from all parts of the globe. I think the energy of the rebooted Star Trek (2009) has been brought over to this apocalyptic sic-fi thriller with a heavy message of prison over-crowding which is a real issue in America and the U.K. a solution needs to be found, just maybe not this one.

Overall it’s a great piece of fun with a message at the bad of it, what can go wrong when the perfect prison goes wrong, it could still go wrong now, riots breaking out. Having the Presidents daughter in the up there is a fresh take on the rogue saving the day, personified by Kurt Russell‘s Snake Plissken who has to redeem himself. There’s a lot of recycling going on, which works really well together, to give us something to both laugh at and enjoy. Although not my first choice, Guy Pearce fits into this dark world.

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