I’ve had an unwanted break from the studio, it’s really being bothering me. When I had other things that needed to do, pulling me away from the studio where I’d rather work full time (if only I could). Enough moaning and I’ve had a really good day, doing more than I had expected again. Beginning the day wrapping the largest element that would later form the cross-section of a gold mine.
Once that was wrapped in brown paper I was ready to fix them all into position. Taking into consideration the difficulty of blending in each section, leading me to work on the 2nd element sooner than I thought. During this long process I ran out of the brown paper I was using, switching to a much lighter stone colour, which thankfully works OK at this stage as it suggests extra work has been carried out by the miners digging into different rock.
I finished the day making a start on the cave at the bottom, which became to arches (of sorts) which acts as legs that support the entire piece. I’ll be wrapping them up next time and working on the other ends to create the cave effect to. So far It looks far more defined, it’s taken more work to bring it to this level. This piece shows that a lot of progress has been made. I’m considering buying more balsa to work on buttresses for another test (or to add to this piece) which will hopefully show more progress. This piece whatever form it may take is using a lot of material, both recycled and new. I’m leaning towards an animation, which potentially will have more advanced sets since Playing with Plastic (2016) which was more floor based. This relies on more sculptural pieces to explore the work.
If I’m honest I had no reason before now to really return to Rio Conchos (1964). It was inspiration for an early piece of work that I’ve made. The unfinished mansion of the confederates who had fled after the surrender at the end of the civil war. I could see the potential in the building, even looking at how it was first framed, from behind the pillars on the porch we have no idea what state the new home is in. The focus of the work has been put into the entrance, emphasising the need to display the power they had once lost back over the border. A need to assert power and stature in a foreign country was clearly essential for Col. Theron Pardee (Edmond O’Brien). This time around I wasn’t so much drawn to the mansion, that drive has been fulfilled, allowing me to focus on what was just a chance to return to a curio of a Western that had faded in the memory.
The memory had become so fragmented that the mansion was really all I remembered. Leaving me to truly rediscover what is really another chance to explore the influence of The Searchers (1956). From the opening scenes I could see clear comparisons between them. We see a number of Apache’s being gunned down just as they are about to pay their respect to the dead they have brought out to cremate. We find James Lassiter (Richard Boone) hiding from view. He enjoys the killing, showing no respect for these Native Americans wanting to say good-bye. If there were more Apache’s he would surely have carried on until he had no more rounds of ammunition. Much like Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) whose stopped by Reverend Clayton (Ward Bond) who can see that this same emotion is all-consuming in the man on a mission of search and destroy.
The very next seen we found Lassiter sleeping in the burnt out homestead when he’s found by Union Captain Haven (Stuart Whitman) and his men. Not so much for killing the Apache’s, more so the gun he used. This could easily have been an alternate version of The Searchers – Edwards, a Confederate solider who we learn wasn’t present at the surrender. Also he could have been so grief-stricken that he stayed in the also burned out homestead and avoided the 7 year search, which would mean no film. It’s a version of events that’s taken up in Conchos instead, who without a supporting community and family a search was never carried out. Lassiter does however know who killed his family, not that we learn this until the final act of the film.
Brought into face justice at a military outposts that doubles as refuge for families making their way West. Everyone is living in a world if fear, something that Lassiter has experience first-hand, changing his outlook on life. A selfish shell of a man who resents the union for winning the civil war and the Apaches for killing his wife and child. Left to rot with his old friend and partner Rodriguez (Anthony Franciosa) who I saw as another Mexican stereotype whose allowed to be a little more than the sidekick at times.
Now for the subplot, the rife used by Lassister had previously stolen, before being sold on. Captain Haven want’s to track down these stolen weapons, hoping to use a gunpowder as bait to bring them to the guns. Something he feels he can achieve if he enlist the help of his newest prisoner. An unorthodox method that sees them cross the border. The prisoner sees this as an opportunity to test his luck, bribing them to also release Rodriguez, a ruthless man who will do anything as long as he gets his own way. Waging his own war against the victors of war as he carries out one last campaign.
Made during the early days of the civil rights movement we have Jim Brown’s Sgt. Ben Franklyn a rare Black soldier, depicting progress in the Union army, a victory for the freed slaves and taking note also of Sergeant Rutledge (1960) which had an all black unit of men. Here they’re mixed, reflecting the hope for better integration within the contemporary U.S. army. Here Franklyn, named after one of America’s founding fathers plays a fairly decent sized role for a traditionally white-centric film and role. He’s able to freely express himself to his superior, no fear of reprisal, carrying out orders and most importantly he gains the respect of Lassiter who a few years before fought for his continued life as a slave.
Moving the focus back to Lassiter whose not afraid to make personal sacrifices, he’s on a mission, one that even he doesn’t really know about. We finally begin to see a more human side of him when they’re surrounded by a band of Apaches who surround another burned out house. A house that only holds reminders of a past that he has yet to resolve. When we see him turn from killer to protector. He becomes the other in order to help them get away. Even their captor, a Squaw – Sally (Wende Wagner) who he begins to see more as a woman and human being to protect. She loses the image of Mexican Apache to become someone to be protect. She’s the Debbie of the film, whilst Boones – Ethan Edwards has begun his long journey to redemption and hopes of moving on. He faces one last challenge, to fight his Confederate past when he’s brought to Rio Conchos, the new base for Pardee’s men south of the border. Becoming Confedardo’s. Hoping to rebuild and return for another chance of glory that has rejected them.
The final act is full of emotional and physical pain for everyone left alive. Visually it’s a little hard to make out at times what is going on, shot in day-for-night conditions for the finale as they tied up men who by this point has been dragged by Apache horses. A form of torture ordered by Blondebeard (sounds more like a pirate than a Native American name) Kevin Hagen who we learn killed Lassiter’s wife and child. The Scar of the film is finally revealed and is just as mean as his white opposite who came for him. It’s a dramatic fiery mess that draws to a close what has been not so much boiling over but simmering for a while. Boone plays the sneaky under-hand kind of man, layered with grief and anger, not quite a hero or anti-hero, he just wants what is justice in his eyes and that’s all that matters.
I wanted to post an update yesterday, however I felt and needed a break from most activity to just switch off as much as possible. Plus I didn’t really achieve much either so I decided to leave things for the day. That was then, today I’m actually pleased with the progress I’ve made. A far larger scale piece that really has come along quite well during the day.
Yesterday I had drawn up a new cross-section with another level and a cave at the bottom, which I am looking forward to seeing come together. The spaces around the tunnels I had drawn up were then raised up into 4 separate elements which I have them begun to wrap. The process of constructing them was pretty straight forward. I’ve got a nice method for the curved edges which I break up into multiple pieces. I spent the rest of the day wrapping each of the pieces, starting with the smaller one’s which I knew I could complete in the day. I knew the larger element would take far longer due to it’s size. When I was reflecting on the days work I could see that I had constructed 4 objects over the weekend in their own right. It feels a shame to have them just fixed to the board and joined up with more wrapping. I feel that they should be explored, or at least acknowledged before this realisation is lost to the progress of making this piece.
I’ll continue to wrap up the remaining piece and sadly fix the elements to the board and start more fun work of making the piece stand. I am also considering bringing in balsa on this piece, which would be used for buttresses at intervals. I think that maybe held back until I know whats going on.
After a short trip to London, I returned to the studio for Bank Holiday Monday, hoping to make some more progress with this test piece. My main aim was to get the shaft up and in place. Things have moved in a slightly different direction.
I began the day by adding the base and fixing in place, slowly patching up the brown paper to remove any suggestion of a join between the elements. I’m starting to get a hang of how the wrapping working, almost like paper mache in places, wrapping over before making it look more realistic, or my own language for a tunnel which so far I’m happy with the aesthetic. I have another tone of paper to use next.
With the base in place I moved onto added the shaft, which I knew would might be harder to wrap once in piece, working with three sides at once. Working with larger strips of brown paper I was able to achieve this. Once complete I was wondering how I can potentially reach/work with model. So I began to cut into the shaft, extending the level that the shaft goes into, whilst still trying to look like a shaft.
Reflecting on it now I can see that I still need work on it, how the tunnel becomes a shaft. It may even revert back to it’s original form, it means more work. The main thing is I want to see how things are working before doing something even more complex. I can consider for now how to move forward.
I honestly thought I would never see this Netflix original. I’m not a fan on the streaming service or any streaming service you have to pay for. I know I am clearly in the minority when I say this. As much as you can potentially have all the films and TV at your finger tips I believe it takes away that sense if anticipation, waiting for a film or TV program Plus I’m horrified by the idea of box-set bingeing, how can you enjoy a whole season of a show in the space of a few hours/days and hope that you can actually remember it all. I’m lucky to be able to watch Westworld on a weekly basis, I’m happy with that set-up. Maybe I’m old fashioned that way. I can wait and enjoy the pay off when it’s something special. Also the notion of having a physical collection to enjoy that you build, a personality curated collection of films that I have, I’m really proud of that, which I can both enjoy and inform my ever-growing appreciated of the medium of film. That’s not to say my way is best, it does rely on having physical space to hold the collection, something I struggle with at times now. I wouldn’t have it any other way though. As much as it’s looking like the future of the film industry I hope there’s still a place for theatrical released work before a home release a few months later.
However over this weekend I have watched two Netflix Originals – that I was previously resentful off, because I felt excluded (yes I could just subscribe and watch), it looks like there’s very little/no chance of a physical DVD release of both The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017) and Okja (2017). I took the opportunity to catch these both. I found them both to really worth my time, engaging, funny and professionally produced, no different to theatrically released work really. Showing how much competition there is between these new companies and the old-guard who are still fighting the TV industry. Where the once little up-start that was just a flash in the pan has become a respected competitor around the world. Actors now move between the two mediums with ease without losing respect, no longer the odd guest-role on a series. Or even starting out in TV before landing in your first film, it no longer matters and why should it as long as your entertaining and stimulating.
So enough of the rant and on to the chosen film – Okja (2017) which I’ve finally been able to catch. Now I came to the film an Omnivore, very much so and still came away one. I know my sister a vegan was really engaged with the themes raised and I can understand and respect that. However it will take a lot more than a film that that acts in part as supporting the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle – pro-animal that didn’t stop me enjoying the film. If anything I was drawing parallels with Starship Troopers (1997) the satirical science fiction which relied on the use of commercialism to convey a dark message about industry. With Okja it’s focused on the food industry and the media manipulation over the audience. With Tilda Swinton playing Lucy Mirando, the face of the Mirando Corporation that has declared a solution for solving the food problem for the growing population – a unique and new discovery, a new breed of pig that they have been keeping under wraps. Mirando is a clever media manipulator who knows how to run a campaign to to her companies advantage. Obsessed with image, we see her being inaugurated as the new CEO of the company, it’s an event or a media circus, all an incredible distraction from the real purpose of the press event.
We jump forward 10 years to the forests of South Korea where one of 26 giant pigs have been reared. I’m left wondering at this point why are they all sent different countries and not in pairs to breed, so no massive farm just a single giant pig. That’s the first plot hole I found. The pig, which has since been named Okja has become the sole companion of Mija (Seohyun An) who sees the pig as her friend/pet. They have bond that can’t be broken, which we see in the early scenes they share together. This isn’t just some oversized animal for comic effect, we come to invest our hearts into this CGI animal who is the focus of the film. Sadly I found at times I was distracted by the quality of Okja whose appearance varies, sometimes rendered seamlessly, you can see the hairs on the pigs body. Whilst at other times she just looks unfinished for medium shots, which at times really distracted me.
Away from those niggles we really start to see how much has been invested between Mija and Okja who are soon torn apart from each other when she’s deceived by her grandfather, whilst Okja‘s transported by the corporation’s divisional head office before returning to America. You could make a whole short film out of the chase and rescue sequence, full of comedy and action that easily rivals and sometimes surpasses the mainstream Hollywood. One of the upside of being funded by Netflix has to be the free-reign to do as you please. As long as you turn in the product they are not fussed. The chase and rescue introduced the AFL (Animal Liberation Front) which I found to be a vert confused group whose aim was to free animals from being harmed. Yet as the film progresses they allow harm to come to Okja which doesn’t make much sense. As much as they feel remorse for what they are doing they still allow harm to another living thing, and carry out violence on others themselves – a flawed group.
There are no real standout performances from those you’d expect to find. I found Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance to be overblown, making the most of the few scenes he had. Whilst Tilda Swinton’s to be just a standard Swinton role nothing that was much of a stretch for her. Seohyun An‘s performance is the only one that really stays with you, full of emotion, you understand her anger, frustration when her friend’s life is at stake. Doing anything to see her again, that’s what you want to see and get in her determination, it feels more than just a role to her, she believes the ideas in the script. In all honesty it is a thinly veiled film that promotes animal rights, which is not a bad thing, we have an entertaining film that is both dark and emotional. We go places where we would hope not to go allowing the film to reach it twist filled conclusion that’s ultimately full of optimism.
Now will I go Vegan or Vegetarian? It’s hard to give up a whole part of my diet for reasons that are shared by others. As much as I respect, I’m not ready to do that. Coming from a butchers family it’s part of my history. Animals cruelty is never something to be taken lightly as we see in Okja, however if an animal that’s raised to be ultimately for human consumption it’s something I see as part of food chain that’s regulated for their safety. A food chain that has become more mechanised and increased for the growing populations. I feel that there is a place for everyone to sit at a table with different ideas/taste of the food they eat whilst respecting others.
Today has been a challenge, one I hope I am meeting head on. The challenge to create layers that connect up. After some research I came across a model miniature that I am using as a reference for my own. I’ve taken a section to replicate in my cardboard style.
Taking the whole side of a box I began to sketch out a rough cross-section to build up a low-relief piece that I knew would keep me busy. It’s been a learning curve, I started out fleshing the roofs of both section of tunnel. I started to realise that I was going to fast, forgetting that I need to get to wrap those sections, I had two roofs set-up before this happened. I stopped to wrap up the first one before carrying on. Then I move on to flesh out the ground that connected with the layer below. Once I had that section in place I was busy wrapping again where I spend the rest of the day.I also added to supports above – forgetting the extra pieces so far.
I knew I wouldn’t finish the piece, with the base still to be added and more construction on the shaft too to begin. I’ll be adding some balsa too in that area. I’m happy with the sloping floor which I hope I can populate with cowboy figures and wagons, just to see if they fit at this stage.
I’ve made a few steps in the right direction now. Taking the base of last weekends model miniature and building underneath it a more cave like structure. I began by drawing up a series of pieces that had a more overtly arched shape. A shape that works quite well when I fixed them to the base and secured. I noticed that once I stood it up right it was top-heavy. I had to think about how to balance it out whilst also maintaining the look of the cave. I had a spare cardboard tube in the studio which I grabbed, cutting to size and butting into position.
Once I knew it was secure and able to stand up I began to wrap it up with brown paper once more. Again it went pretty well. I had enough time to make another base which I began to wrap. Now the step up, I wanted to join the two pieces together making it a whole piece. which was a bit slap-dash in places. I knew that it fitted my overall aesthetic and I could wrap over these parts. The good think about this work that any new additional parts that are created and joined can look naturally part of the whole with the help of the paper. I know that looking at this finished test piece that I could have wrapped it a bit better where the joins are hidden, that’s something that comes with time and practice of making these pieces. I’m also considering that the supports need to look more natural, maybe pieces of cardboard either side. It’s something to take to the next piece.
The next step is a big step is to make it possible for the layers to be connected to suggest that travel between them is possible. I know that can’t be steps, it might be a series of shafts, or could there be a staggered drop between layers. I’m imagining both options right now which need to be research before I make a quick piece like this again. It’s back to the research for now.
I am pleased to announce that my latest piece – Painting the Town… (2018) will be part of this years members show at Two Queens in Leicesters Cultural Quarter 25 May | 6:00 – 9:00 (Launch) 26 May | 12:00 – 6:00
Featuring the work by:
Mita Solanky, Tom Harding, Harry Freestone, Darren Baxter & Helena Mcleod, Maarja Henisoo, Lucy Andrews, Amrit Doll, Khush Kali, Mateus Domingos, Jane Domingos, Daniel Sean Kelly, Kerry Jackson, Leila Houston, Abigail Morris, Katerina Luchkova, Les Hayden, Luke Elson, Scott Mason, Jack Halford, Gino Attwood, Daniel Goodwin, Tim Hardman, Tony Walker, Daniel Cowlam, Jake Kent, Melissa Beardmore and Finn Morris.
The aim of the day was to construct two layers of a tunnel, one, the entrance and a level below. I didn’t quite meet that but I have still made some progress as I can share below. I had a bit of a false start, even after I made a solid start on a new test piece. I got so carried away with making the walls I forgot to add the roof above that forced me to unwrap what I had already done to add that structure. On the wrapping front I decided to buy a roll of brown parcel paper which I’ll now continue to use and distress before fixing into place. My reasoning is that I have used fresh unused boxes in the past for piece so why not here, The paper’s distressed before being used, taking it away from its desired function.
As I began to wrap the new improved piece I had tried out the folded edge method which looked good to a point. The point being that after a few more pieces were added in places, it looked too neat. I was given some advice during the day to added ripped pieces, which I adapted to fix on top to appear more natural too, which it does.
I tried this method out on the next piece, the base and potential ceiling of the next layer, It worked really well, so I decided to return to the top half which really changed the who look of the piece. I felt it would be patchwork, but honestly it adds more authenticity than I imagined.
Reflecting at the finished work for the day I have come further forward, However much I have the aesthetic down, the overall construction is not quite there, I need to build it up more like a tunnel, even with a ridge on the base was not enough. It needs to be more rounded above. Yes it’s narrower but it’s not looking like a tunnel really, it’s getting there slowly which is what I am taking away from this weekend in the studio. Next time I’ll take my decisions from the end of today and apply then to the next layer, building under this base with a more rounded tunnel and an improved base for that too.
After an unwanted extended break from the studio due to illness I made a much needed return which has been very productive. I’ve done more than I had expected to do which is always a bonus. I was greeted this morning by a nice donation of cardboard from another studio holder, something I am accustomed to, but not to this degree. A number of flattened boxes with a lovely note.
So I began where I left off, the structure that was essentially a tunnel on the corner in between two walls of cardboard, ready to be fleshed out during the day in preparing for brown paper to be wrapped and fixed around the cardboard frame that was built up. I’d had to say the hardest part was constructing the framework for the ceiling of this tunnel. I had already cut away the majority of the ground to allow me easy access to eventually add the brown paper on top.
The wrapping itself was pretty easy going, I think I’ve improved since I made the rocks for my animation a few years ago, being more precise with where I fix it in place. Even fixing to the framework. My only concern with the paper is that it comes in strips which naturally have harsh or even torn edges which spoils the illusion to a point. I don’t really want to reveal that. An early thought is to fold over these edges to create something new in the texture of the rock faces. My only concern is that I will be soon running out of brown paper. My only option is to constantly reuse as much as possible. I do have a roll of parcel paper, however it’s unused, so not at the point where it can be recycled. It’s something I would have to purchase new to use for different purpose. I’ll have to make that decision when I’ve exhausted my current supply.
Moving on I also made a base – the ground of this tunnel, complete with a mound to create something more natural to look at. Making use of my most recent donation I pieced two leaves of the boxes together and drew out the area that needed to be wrapped up, with a mound and section of another on the side. I finished the day by bringing both elements together to complete the desired piece. I’ve got the right scale, it needs some improvement and I also need to reduce the width of the piece so it’s more like a tunnel not a cave, which can be more expansive. I’m saving something like that for later when I know what I’ll be making for this piece. Now it’s just about understanding how to make these pieces before adapting them to the concept which needs to be research more before going further. I know I need to look at the notion and drives behind the policy of Manifest Destiny and seeing how an alien translation would look.