I am pleased to announce that part 6 of my animation Playing with Plastic (2016) will be exhibited online as part of a new archive UN[dis]CRIMINATE with the Unstitute online gallery.

Located in courtyards of the Unstitute – in between spaces, between other structures, temporary or otherwise – is a network of diverse encampments serving any number of uses; political or otherwise. In these digital encampments you can see the building of a new archive: UN[dis]CRIMINATE.

The outlying buildings of The Unstitute are not guarded by anyone in particular, and often entrances sit wide open for anyone to see. But mainly the nomadic eruptions in disused or otherwise vague areas of The Unstitute appear of their own determination, and deterritorialize as long as they please.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (13/11/19)

It’s been another day of colour, I love these day as you can see all that hard work, cutting cardboard all day for weeks on end, to finally get something like what happens on days like these. I had a short time in the studio today, just enough to allow me to see the roofs and walkways/promenades come together.

Mixing up a colour that really brought the colour of the walls I applied yesterday to really work. I had to go over a few sections that were painted incorrectly, I was finding my feet with what should be painted yesterday. Now I have a partial town in a uniform set of colours. I was unsure how this would look really. It was getting some comments about the work that really made the difference. They have a crisp newly built look that reflects those frontier towns, better than before in my work. A mix of looking at the source material comic book and watching Deadwood the past few months that is seeping into my work now. A young town would have fairly new buildings that have little damage. My past pieces were referencing frontier towns that were depicted in sets of Westerns from the 1950’s that used far wider range of colours that were brighter, probably making the most of the technicolor process, to maximise the most of the process on-screen.

Moving forward I carried on with the saloon adding even more detail to the posts and the frame of the saloon door. I them moved my attention to the barn, which I’ve built for another scene entirely, painting out the false entrance to create a dark space behind doors.

Looking ahead for my next visit to the studio I’ll be painting the barn and adding more detail to the town buildings. This is when I need to be careful, whatever I do on either scale has to translate across. I’m considering drawing on the windows, yet part of me wants to paint them on.

Dark City (1998)

I didn’t know what I was going to get when I sat down for Dark City (1998), opening with touches of the cityscape of Fritz Langs Metropolis (1927) being used overtly blended with Tim Burton’s studio built Gotham city almost 10 years previous to the release of Dark City. A major part of the initial draw was the fact that what I was seeing on the screen for the first few shots was actually there, real not reliant on CGI still in its infancy used for a few shots. We are bathing in a film noir-esque cityscape that suddenly stops at the stroke of midnight. Everyone falls asleep, cars stop in traffic, life comes to a temporary pausing in this unnamed city. Whilst John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in his bath, unaware of what’s happening around him. His whole life and sense of reality is about to be shaken and reshaped over the course of the film. Trying to figure out how he got to this point, with no clear memory of what’s just happened.

Elsewhere a mad scientist Dr. Daniel Schrebe (Kiefer Sutherland) is trying to keep tabs on Murdoch whose one of his patients, trying to warn him that the police will be after him for the latest murder of a prostitute. A man hunt is on for Murdoch, who has no knowledge of the killings, it’s a frantic race for either Schrebe or Inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt) to reach him first. The key being his wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly) is barroom singer in the archetype of the femme-fetale with a contemporary edge.

Everything is rather fast-paced as the race for Murdoch get’s underway. The first ones to meet him are neither Schrebe or Bumstead, but Hellraiser-esque figures in bowler hats that find him on a bridge in-front of a billboard. These figures known as The Strangers (not that imaginative really) have the ability to manipulate the world around them to their advantage as they try to reach Murdoch. The question is why do they need him, what does he mean to them. We later see how during one pausing of life at midnight once again that a family living in a working classic house is transformed into a more stately building, with finer clothes, not forgetting the painful injection in the forehead that we later learn alters the memories they will have to come into line with the new reality they will wake up to. A far more extreme version of The Truman Show (1998) that relied on the compliance of actors to listen to an ear piece to ensure that Truman (Jim Carrey) is kept unaware and manipulated into staying in a purpose built environment, all for the benefit of reality TV. Something that is not a concern of The Strangers lead by Mr Book (Ian Richardsonwho ensure every change is carried out meticulously.

All these changes are witnessed by Murdoch whose beginning to understand the world around him is growing when he finally meets Schrebe. With a fascination for a childhood memory for Shell Beach, a location that is known by others but soon leads to frustration, getting there is far harder than first thought. The first crack in a system that is essentially a giant laboratory for social study by The Strangers. Another major revelation is that Murdoch has the same abilities as The Strangers, a race that use psychic manipulation to control the world around them. It’s not really explained how he has the power, but does that really matter. Director and writer Alex Proyas has constructed a densely packed world that references so much of cinema’s past, from noir to darkest horror and science fiction, blended together to create a reality that we could still question today.

The now low-fi special effects allow for a more physical world to be created. The angular buildings are easier to manipulate and believable, even 20 years later it works because everything in this Gilliam-esque world makes sense. A combination of 1940’s and 1990’s style that becomes timeless. Continually bleak until a conclusion that breaks the rules of goodie vs baddie fights, after a few of The Strangers are defeated before Mr Book is taken on in a bizarre battle in the sky. Leaving the majority of this alien race still possibly alive, it’s never really explained to the audience. There’s a natural fixation with Shell Beach that we learn was just an implanted memory from any number of constructed lives for Murdoch before his powers developed. Breaking through this walled world to manipulate it for the better. Bringing the first rays of sunlight to a Pratchett-esque disc world that floats in space.

I’ve used a lot of esques in this review because I can see countless influences throughout the film that like many other films of the late 1990’s that questioned the reality of the world around us. Do we really have free will, are the memories we have truly our own. Is a greater power above working in our favour or simply using us as part of a grand experiment. In a decade that was generally trouble free in the West there was nothing to question but our reality as technology began to race ahead of us at the close of the century. A new millennium was on the cusp with both fears and great possibilities that would and continue to change our lives, for better or worse I’ll let you decide.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (11/11/19

There’s been a return of colour in my work today, even investing in some new paint brushes and paint to get things rolling properly. I began the day by working on some detail I missed out yesterday on the barbers in both scales, putting them out of this batch. I pulled out the church instead to get underway. I also added some gum tape over some of the roofs to hide the joins.

Each piece was quickly primed before colour was quickly added. I had previously looked back at the source material for inspiration for the pallet, I found that the style was quite minimal, nothing really stands out in the drawings in the panels where they are included. From this I decided that I wanted to follow this inspiration further, not wanting to draw too much attention to the models, they should sit in the background. So far I have painted the walls of all the buildings in this batch (except the barn), at the moment they are a soft yellow ochre, I might soften them further next time before added contrasting colours to the roofs and other details. Where I have open doors I’m going to simply paint black.

The barn itself which I will do at the end of this batch will have a more classic American red with white detail as a contrast. So far so good for these models, now that I have a plan I can easily replicate for these pieces I should move rather fast through the pieces, not accounting for the extra detail that maybe needed. I can use this style for al the other buildings to ensure that I don’t spend longer than necessary on the painting. I am considering some cheeky distressing at the end of these with some mud at the bases of them all.

Otherwise I’m really, really pleased with the days progress in the studio, now I’ve got a better idea of what I’m going to be working with. The animation tests will more realistically be made during the spring at the earliest now. I’m enjoying the painting progress now I’m in the swing of it, another aspect of model making that I’ve missed for too long.


Cowboys Invaded – Update (10/11/19)

I’ve eased myself back into the studio today, focusing on the smallest and easiest batch of ruined buildings for the animation at 1:32 scale. Just the two of them today, allowing me to crack on pretty fast with them. The priming and both coats of paint soon when on allowing me to focus on the balsa detail.

Finished just a few hours after lunch I didn’t want to just leave them and just go home for the day. Setting up the next phase of work that I wanted to get stuck into. It’s a little more complicated than just balsa detail now. Having to consider the colour pallet for both scales of each model. I noticed as soon as I had set up the first batch that I had left out the balsa detail on the exterior of one of the models – the saloon/bar in both scales. Working from the 1:72 scale ruin of that piece I was able to add the detail, from the information in the ruin I was able to construct a complete set of posts in both scales.

Sadly I noticed another one as I was about to leave the studio, for now I’ll leave that one out, add the detail and paint up another pair instead. The biggest challenge is considering the colours and the level of detail. I might return to the source material for inspiration. I’m not sure how fast these piece will move through the process right now. I’m taking this batch as a learning curve, with just a method to approach them.

About Time (2013)

If I’m honest this year has been the first one in which I’ve actually seen both Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999). You could say I’ve bowed to pressure to watch these films or I’ve just softened with age to think it’s about time to check them out. I was captured by the buoyant and very English dialogue of Richard Curtiswho for years felt trite and cliche. I could watch Blackadder, and put up with The Vicar of Dibley for a few years because I knew who the writer was, thinking he was attempted to be too contemporary, it felt forced. Now I found it to be just typical of his style and just sit back enjoy them all. Both Funeral and Hill just worked for me now I guess in part because I’ve reached a point in my life where I wanted to see what the fuss was about, and that I just don’t care about that attitude anymore. I felt the same about Lionel Richie for a long time until I thought s*** it, why not, now I’ve seen him twice in the past two years and sing along to his songs in the car. Yeah I’ve definitely softened. As much as I now enjoy Curtis’s writing, I draw the line at the Bridget Jones trilogy, which I think is a step too far right now. I did however want to catch About Time (2013), which I remember had a time travel element about it, which at the time of release I wrote off as a gimmick and let it drift by. After seeing Curtis’s earlier films this year I had to finally watch it.

On the surface of About Time it could be about anything besides time travel, set in contemporary UK, a middle class family and a white single young man whose about to have his life unfold. It looks like any other film penned by Curtis, as I discovered from his BAFTA screenwriting lecture I found on Youtube, writing what he knows is just that, love from a middle class background, can’t fault him from straying from his own experiences. Yet only a few scenes in after the introduction of a seemingly normal family of older parents with grown-up kids about to leave home, for 21 year old Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) he’s about to discover that all male members of his family can time travel. His father (Bill Nighy) reveals to him this last fact of life during his last summer before he leaves for a job in the law up in London. All it takes to travel back in time (not forward to the future, that would be crazy) or change history, just have the ability to change things in his own life. With these few restrictions he starts to learn how to navigate the next chapter of life with a completely different perspective compared to other young 20 somethings.

The first things he wants to do is fall in love, which hasn’t been all that successful up to this point. First trying to get together with his sisters friend Charlotte (Margot Robbie) that doesn’t quite work out, even when he does use his new found ability. He’s learning how he can change things if only just slightly. Already aware of how he can affect others around him. Through these early jumps back in the film that he’s finding his feet with his feet as he time travels. Each time is perfectly captured as he either leaves the frame or finds a dark cupboard to focus his energy. At this point it’s fun to see how his effect on the world and those around him can be so positive. If only George Bailey could have done this in It’s a Wonderful Life (1947) it would have removed the need for the second class angel altogether.

It’s a blind date, literally… where we first see things get really serious for Tim as he wants to make things happen, knowing that he can’t really use his ability to fall in love his does his best without. We hear the voice of Mary (Rachel McAdams) as her and her friend are chatting together on a double blind date. It’s equally awkward to hear and fun to watch as just for a moment he’s had a stroke of real luck, let’s hope he can keep hold of this and see her again. That’s before his frustrated playwright of an uncle angry about the poor reception of his play on opening night, down to one of his actors forgetting their lines at the close of the play. Tim takes it on himself to eventually rectify this error, which in turn results in him not meeting Mary. He like the audience is learning just how carefully he has to tread in order to get what he wants and still keep everyone happy.

Cue an extended section where after multiple attempts he finally get’s the girl and they start what becomes a long and lasting relationship, marriage and all the children that come with that. That’s not really a spoiler when you look at how he faces the obstacles in his life, choosing carefully how he should or shouldn’t use his ability to change the past of those he loves in order to save them. He’s going above and beyond. A patriarchal figure without even knowing it, juggling the lives of his family, we see he really cares for them, which is really endearing to the audience. Sometimes the effect doesn’t have the desired results that at times had me wondering how all his actions would effect his own personal timeline. This is where the sci fan in me came out, wanting to ensure he could balance out the causes and effects of his actions. He like anyone else just blagging it as we all do through life, just with one extra ball in the air.

Of course there are some plot holes and issues, from how Mary begins with an English accent before slipping and staying in an American accent for the remainder of the film. I forgave that as they make a lovely couple. To the fact that Tim seems to be a lawyer who’s super talented at 21 and is soon working in the courts, he’s smashing things at work. An aspect of his life that is only populated by his buffoon of a friend Rory (Joshua McGuire). We are also given a few more lines to explain how certain situations can’t be altered via time travel or caused by it as we progress. At times that either felt lazy or natural, depending on the scene. These are all small really in the grand scheme of a film that is both deeply touching, yes schmaltzy and funny all in the right balance.  I’m definitely softening in the past year or so, allowing me to enjoy this wonderful film that got me thinking about how we should treasure the ones we love and the time we have with them. That’s a wonderful message to take away from a film that makes life feel good again, when all the c*** we have to deal with make you want to go back in time and fix those moments that could alter things for the better.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (2/11/19)

Admittedly a day later than expected. I came into the studio yesterday for a shorter than usual day. Hoping I would have time to complete the remaining ruined buildings from the second batch. Thankfully I did just that, allowing me to now focus on two more pieces in the third batch of these pieces.

I’m pleased that they’re nearly all complete now. Probably the more intricate of the pieces I have to paint. I’m hoping that the third batch shouldn’t take more than a single studio visit to complete, allowing me to consider the complete buildings in both scales, which could take sometime to complete.

Cowboys Invaded Update (30/10/19)

Things should be getting a little more regular again now in terms of studio updates, now the top secret works complete I can concentrate on my own practice again. As much as the work has pushed me to make better pieces it’s a very welcome return to my own model miniatures.

Turning to today’s events in the studio the second batch is now almost complete. Of the 8, 4 are now complete, after starting the day by completing the second coat on all the pieces. I then turning to the balsa elements, which at first was really slow progress. I put that down to the intricacy of the model I started on. I soon sped up with the following 3 pieces.

Leaving with hopefully 4 more straightforward pieces to finish off. I then have a much smaller batch of 2 to paint. Then I’ll be turning to the whole town again. My approach will be far different, painting both a mix of 1:32/72 together, this will ensure that both versions of the same model have the same paint work. I’ve decided they need some colour, which I’ve still to decide on. Again it’s great to be back in the swing of it all.

Cowboys Invaded – Update (14/10/10)

Recently I’ve not been posting any studio updates and there’s a very good and exciting reason behind this longer than usual silence. Early last month I was contacted to ask if I could be a studio assistant for another artist. A chance that I grabbed with both hands. The time before that had been pretty sparse for work. Since that time I have been working on top-secret work that I hope to share with you in the new year.

However I have been able to grab some studio time for myself, allowing my own work to still progress, even at a slower rate than I have been working at this year. I’m deep in painting of the larger scale buildings. I’ve moved onto the second batch and have got the first coat on most of those too.

So the work rate has slowed down for now, until early November at the earliest when things will pick up again. I’m getting a taste of freelance life that is pushing me creatively, mentally and physically. I can’t complain as it’s the artist’s dream to be paid for using their own skills. I am creatively content in work and play.

In the meantime you can follow me on Instagram for more regular studio updates (when I’m working on my own work), otherwise I will try to post when I can on any films that catch my attention.

Ad Astra (2019)

I came to Ad Astra (2019) with a lot of hope that this would be this years Sci-fi masterpiece, which I think is still going to be High Life (2018). There are plenty of positive reviews out there with only a smattering of negative ones, which I chose to ignore, hoping that all would be OK. Hoping this was going to be another Apocalypse Now (1979) which has just had it’s definitive directors – Final cut that I’m hoping to see soon. So in theory we should be getting the same kind of trippy experience through our solar system in the not so distant future that sees Earth having reached a point where they have mastered space travel within to become a daily occurrence. It’s all in a days work for the United States military Space corp, that Maj Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) who we meet working on a transmitter that pokes above the Earths atmosphere. A cool headed, almost emotionless soldier whose admired through the ranks for his level-headedness.

All that is soon to be tested when he learns of the reasons behind a series of electrical explosions caused by the effects of exploding anti-matter (incredibly dangerous stuff, if not handled carefully). News of his long-lost thought-to-be dead father is revealed to McBride. H.Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones) who left to lead a mission to explore the possibility of life away from Earth. Reports of activity are revealed to Roy who is hardly moved by what most people would be generally taken-aback by. Taking it instead in his stride, he leaves to start his classified mission. The latest in a long line of missions that have taken a toll on his personal life. And so begins the Mallickesque monologues get underway, used an extra psychological evaluations or log entries, we get too much by the end of the film that I just switched off from this aspect.

Visually I can’t fault the film, it displays a very plausible future where space travel is the very much the norm and we could get to Mars in a few hours (if you can afford it). The near-future looks achievable. We see very little of life outside of the military that Roy lives in. When we do it’s not far removed from now. This is one of the few saving graces of the film that goes painfully slow at times. You could go to the loo, come back and have missed very little of any importance to the plot, it moves that slowly.

A major failure in the film is having McBride being so cold for the majority of the film. We have only a few glimpses of his father before the final act to understand how he came to this state. Looking at Ryan Gosling‘s Neil Armstrong in First Man (2018) we had a much deeper understanding of the how the astronaut was so cool under pressure and how he had repressed his emotions, especially since the loss of his daughter. We had a stronger foundation to the character. McBride we have little go on, so how can an audience invest in him as he travels through space or over the length of the film.

I think part of my expectation for more was tangled up in it’s comparison to Apocalypse Now! which had far more going on as Willard (Martin Sheen) made his way through the Asian jungles encountering his own army becoming evermore dysfunctional as he searches for Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando). That meeting in Astra was really a let down after some almost edge of your seat scenes that progressed the film towards the spaceship Lima where H.Clifford was now the sole member of the crew. Driven to carry out the mission at all costs. He too like Kurtz had lost all sense of reality, without that sense of danger of something spilling out.

What we got was just disappointing after Roy’s journey that began as a mission of military importance became a much more personal one. We do feel the cold frustrating bureaucracy of the military that potentially holds him back yet there’s little push back from them to feel it’s worth. The supposed emotional impact at the climax of the film is not really worth the pay-off.

There’s a lot here that is started but just not pushed far enough. It would help if you had a main character that you could engage with. At least he chose the right profession so he could be left alone at times. Visually it’s splendid, a conceivable future that leaned towards THX 1138 (1971) at times. Let down mainly due to the length allow action to unfold at a more leisurely pace rather than speeding things up in the edit.

Talking Pictures – Westerns

Admittedly I’ve already promoted this documentary – Talking Pictures: Westerns. I just can’t stop myself from saying more. Usually Talking Pictures tends to just focus on one actor/actress. Sometimes they get a bit more daring in the curated use of the BBC archive for interviews that take you on a journey from their rise to stardom.

I found the focus on Westerns a real treat. I would stress that’s best viewed on the biggest screen you have. This relates more to the content of mostly widescreen clips from films, from Stagecoach (1939) all the way to The Magnificent Seven (2016). It reflects just how genre captures the American West, more importantly the cinematography that made some of the films so iconic.

There were times that it didn’t answer a few points raised by the interviews, such as Henry Fonda’s experience with horses – relating to The Ox-Bow Incident (1943). You could say that films a deeper cut for the average film fan wanting to learn more about the genre. On the whole the short documentary does touch on the main points that build up the progression of the genre. Showing an extensive use of clips from classics of the genre and those I never thought I’d see. Could that be a hint of films to be shown by the BBC in the future?

Overall it was a nice trip into my favourite genre that acts as nice introduction without being too heavy on content. Relying on the key players to explain how it evolved. For a Sunday it was a perfect treat. If you live in the UK you can catch the documentary on iPlayer until mid-October.